This will only hurt a bit: Psychotherapy patient experience moving from face-to-face therapy to e-therapy

Dr Shaun Halovic1,2, Dr David Alchin1,2, Dr Anthony Korner1,2, Associate Professor Loyola McLean1,2, Ms Clodagh Ross-Hamid3,4, Miss May Ladlanki3

1Westmead Psychotherapy Program, Cumberland Hospital, North Parramatta, Australia, 2Sydney University, Camperdown, Australia, 3Emotional Health and Clinical Research Unit, Cumberland Hospital, North Parramatta, Australia, 4Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia

The threat of the Corona virus (COVID-19) has caused worldwide social distancing, where citizens were typically quarantined within their own homes. Access to psychotherapeutic treatments, which are reliant upon the socially constructed therapeutic relationship between the client and therapist, have been similarly hindered. The Westmead Psychotherapy Program (WPP) have transitioned to the use of tele-conferencing technologies (e.g. Zoom, Skype, telephone) as a way to continue the availability of psychotherapeutic treatment and to protect the established therapeutic relationship. Despite the literature showing that psychotherapy provided over tele-health mechanisms are just as effective as when provided face-to-face, the theoretical importance of a genuine therapeutic relationship and the use of non-verbal cues in therapy would suggest some resistance towards the use of e-therapy modalities. Nevertheless, e-therapies have the potential to reduce the economic cost of psychotherapeutic treatments (e.g. renting therapy rooms, travel costs), and also improve the available access to psychotherapeutic treatments for at risk populations who experience disability or great distress around leaving their home (e.g. clients diagnosed with depression, social anxiety). The weighing of these competing factors would be different for each client and likely impacts upon their experience of the psychotherapy. We conducted short semi-structured interviews with three clients who had transitioned from face-to-face therapy to e-therapy. Each client reported an initial anxious hesitance for the use of e-therapeutic modalities, however those anxieties disappeared after 1-3 therapy sessions. All clients still reported a preference for face-to-face therapy but would also welcome the use of e-therapeutic modalities in the future.


Dr Shaun Halovic holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Health Science and a PhD in Psychology. Dr Halovic came primarily from a psychophysics research background. More recently, Dr Halovic has ventured into research on Conversational Model Therapy (CMT) within the Westmead Psychotherapy Program. More specifically, the measurement of adherence to CMT and the underlying decision processes that separate novices from expert clinicians. Dr Halovic has also worked in a range of industries related to the development of holistic health: education, fitness, disabilities, youth care, psychosomatic medicine and currently co-ordinates the research arm of the Westmead Psychotherapy Program

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