As many as one in five children and adolescents may suffer from a mental health disorder, yet there are barriers that often prevent children from receiving optimal treatment. The current study explores the influence of practitioner license type, therapy modality, diagnosis, age, and gender on mental health therapy for children and adolescents. Data was provided by Cigna, a leading health care insurance provider in the United States. Participants include 106,374 boys (53.2%) and 93,753 girls (46.8%) ages 3 to 18 (M = 12.1, SD = 3.9) who were treated in outpatient facilities throughout the United States of America. Results indicate that there are differences in dropout, recidivism, cost, and treatment length by provider license, therapy modality, diagnosis, age, and gender. Specifically, results suggest that marriage and family therapists have the lowest percent recidivism and are among the lowest in terms of dropout and cost effectiveness. The results also suggest that family therapy is more cost effective than individual or mixed therapy and that mixed therapy has a much lower percent dropout than individual or family therapy. Analysis by diagnosis suggests a potential severity scale based on dropout, recidivism, and number of sessions. There are also significant differences in dropout and recidivism by age suggesting that younger children are more likely to dropout of treatment. These results provide valuable information about mental health treatment of children and adolescents. Specifically, utilizing a family based approach may help reduce the total length of treatment while utilizing a mixed mode approach to therapy may help reduce the risk of dropout from treatment. Also, some diagnoses appear to be more difficult to treat, with higher percentages of dropout and requiring more time and money for successful treatment. Limitations and future directions are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





child adolescent therapy, mental health license type, therapy modality, family therapy, dropout, diagnosis, recidivism, mixed therapy, retrospective analysis, Cigna, cost, cost effectiveness, number of sessions, treatment length