The Online Therapeutic Relationship: Examining Tradeoffs between Convenience and Depth of Engagement
This qualitative, phenomenological study gathered data from ten online therapists in order to answer the following questions: How do online practitioners/therapists experience the therapeutic relationship with their clients online? How do online practitioners experience the process of developing and maintaining the therapeutic relationship with the clients online? Semi-structured interviews were conducted via Skype with a sample of nine online therapists and analyzed by means of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The main finding of the study was that there was a trade-off between depth of and convenience in online therapy. The loss of physical presence affected both the therapeutic relationship and the therapeutic alliance in ways that required therapists to be more mindful of how to structure the relationship, and build the alliance, in a manner that compensated for the shortcomings of the online medium. As such, it was concluded that online therapy is most appropriate for less complex clinical problems in which the online medium poses fewer risks to the either the therapeutic relationship or the therapeutic alliance.