The doctoral research I conducted was entitled;

‘Email counselling and the therapeutic relationship: A grounded theory study’.

This is a short precis –
Provision of online counselling in its many forms has increased dramatically over the last 10 years; however research findings suggest that many therapists have concerns about whether a therapeutic relationship can be successfully engendered online,  particularly given the absence of non-verbal communication cues. To date there is very little research available about the online therapeutic relationship; email counselling was chosen for the current study as through its dearth of non-verbal cues it may deemed most different to face-to-face counselling, and is considered to be the most popularly used mode.The study aimed to openly explore experiences of therapists who were working both face-to-face and by email, regarding the therapeutic relationship and formulate an explanatory theory of this process. Drawing on constructionist grounded theory twenty five participants were recruited using different interview methods.

The psychological processes co-constructed from the data indicated that many participants found working in the cueless online environment highly challenging with participants managing the resultant anxiety by; becoming more task orientated, avoiding difficulties , holding on tight to what was known to work in face-to-face encounters, overcompensating through having more time to perfect a response and defending the professional self-concept. The findings of this study provide new and important insights into the experience of online therapists and identify a process that could help inform future online therapists, as well as being useful to the online counselling profession as a whole. Implications for core counselling and psychology training programs were highlighted.

I am in the process of publishing the findings but you can access the full document at the University of the West of England online repository. If you are interested in the research please feel free to contact me.