Clients' Experiences of Online Therapy in the Early Stages of a Covid‐19 World: A Scoping Review
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 forced an abrupt shift in the modality through which psychotherapy was delivered and online therapy became the only viable option for clients. Research regarding experiences of online therapy during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic is minimal, however, and has largely focussed on therapists' experiences of delivering online treatment, as opposed to clients' experiences of receiving it. A scoping review was undertaken to establish what is known from the existing literature about clients' experiences of online therapy during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and identify gaps in the current knowledge. Searches were conducted across four academic databases: Scopus, EBSCO CINAHL Complete, EBSCO MEDLINE and OVID PsycInfo; the literature was excluded based on established PICOS criteria. Data were summarised through data charting and synthesised by way of inductive content analysis. A total of five articles were identified. All articles focussed on online therapy using video or audio conferencing, and four of the five studies examined clients with eating disorders. Inductive content analysis identified seven categories, as follows: preference for face-to-face therapy; appreciation of accessibility and convenience; online format hindered connection; positive experience of online therapy; individual client differences impacted experience; strong therapeutic alliance indicative of positive experience; and gratitude for continuation of treatment. Future research could explore clients' experiences of online therapy in a “post-pandemic” world and include a broader range of client populations and online therapy approaches in the COVID-19 context.