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Zoomed out: Trainee psychotherapist perspectives on online clinical work during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Elizabeth Day & Kerry Thomas-Anttila

 

Abstract

During lockdown in response to COVID-19, students in the Master of Psychotherapy at Auckland University of Technology were required to rapidly move their clinical work online. We surveyed these students about their experience of working clinically online. We used a mixed-methods approach and analysed qualitative data using grounded theory methods. Students found the move online challenging in terms of the technological challenges, lack of professional clinical space, and establishing and maintaining the therapeutic alliance. Students showed a strong preference for in-person (or, face-to-face) clinical work, along with scepticism about the efficacy of online therapy, though some acknowledged its convenience and others its currency and relevance. Most expressed a need for more specific training in online therapy. The literature finds equivalence between the effectiveness of in-person and online therapy. However, it acknowledges that online therapy can impose increased strain on clinicians and finds that clinician expectations directly impact their capacity to manage online clinical work.

 

Keywords: online therapy, expectations, trainee psychotherapist, student, COVID-19, pandemic

 

Address for Correspondence
Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth.Day@aut.ac.nz