Therapeutic process in the context of third party determined time limits

Tracey Wright*, Virginia Simpson-Young, Christopher Lennings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Psychological services are increasingly provided within a context in which third party payers impose limits on the number of sessions available to the client and therapist. Considerable research has addressed the effect of time limits on therapeutic outcomes, while effects on therapeutic process have received less attention. This article reports on research that assessed the perceived impact of externally determined time limits on therapeutic process from the perspective of practicing psychologists. Methods: This study used a concurrent triangulation mixed-methods design. Study 1 was a repeated measures questionnaire that was both qualitative and quantitative in nature, and Study 2 utilised qualitative semi-structured interviews. Twenty-seven Australian psychologists treating clients within externally imposed time limits were interviewed, and 85 completed a questionnaire to obtain their perspective on the impact of time limits on the therapeutic process. Results: Therapeutic approach was impacted by time limits, including choice of therapeutic modality, shifts in problem definition and approach, and increased directiveness, prompting concern about a focus on symptom removal over facilitating maintenance of treatment gains. Conclusions: This research contributes to an understanding of how temporal constraints influence treatment, and managed care funding policies may need to be considered in the light of this understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Psychologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


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