What is a difficult mental health case? An empirical study of relationships among domain variables

Freddy A. Paniagua, Adel Wassef, Michael O'Boyle, Sylvia A. Linares, Israel Cuellar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


A difficult case in psychotherapy can be defined in many ways. This study proposes a model for that definition, in which three domains (patient characteristics, case characteristics, and therapist characteristics) are considered to impact on that definition. A total of 264 professionals received a questionnaire to assess the relative importance of a series of variables within and across these domains. Wilcoxon Matched-Pairs Signed-Ranks tests indicated that patient characteristics were considered more important than therapist or case characteristics in defining a difficult case. Case characteristics were considered more important than therapist characteristics. Pearson correlations, however, suggested that the three domains in the model are related. Correlations (for years of experience) and Kruskal-Wallis one-way ANOVA for ranks (for professions) also indicated that participants were able to identify variables within domains as important in that definition regardless of years of experience or professions. Across domains, the most important variables included the motivation of the client (a patient characteristic), dropout/attrition and multiple diagnoses (case characteristics), and the degree of therapist-client racial similarity (a therapist characteristic).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1993
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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