Trust in Online Therapeutic Relationships: The Therapist's Experience

Fletcher-Tomenius, Leon and Vossler, Andreas (2009). Trust in Online Therapeutic Relationships: The Therapist's Experience. Counselling Psychology Review, 24(2) pp. 24–34.



Trust is one of the most important constructs in Psychology to explain interpersonal functioning and outcomes of interactions. As with traditional face-to-face counselling it can be assumed that trust plays an important role in developing a working alliance in online counselling and therapy. However, due to the fact this is a relatively new field, most previous studies have only focussed on the analysis of factors influencing the therapeutic relationship in a face-to-face context. This qualitative study therefore investigates how online counsellors define and experience trust in online therapeutic environments and what affect the presence or absence of trust has on the therapeutic relationship online.

Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), semi-structured interviews were conducted with six online counsellors who were accredited with the BACP and had at least three years post-qualification experience. Three main themes arose through the process of analysis: 1) The role of anonymity in trust online, 2) the impact of the medium of communication 3) similar issues to forming trust in face-to-face contexts. The findings have practical implications for the provision of counselling and therapy online.

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