Delivering Online Therapy During COVID-19: Counselling Psychologists’ Experience
The utilisation of online therapy has flourished in recent years, with the need for flexible and remote delivery of therapy substantially increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This present study aimed to explore counselling psychologists’ experiences of delivering online therapy during COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand. A thematic analysis of eight interviews with registered counselling psychologists in Aotearoa New Zealand revealed themes around the challenges and benefits of online therapy, and the impacts of online therapy on the therapeutic relationship - a hallmark component within the clinical practice of counselling psychology. Counselling psychologist participants identified several general benefits of delivering online therapy, both in relation to meeting the needs of certain client demographics and in attending to participants’ own self-care during the pandemic. However, participants also identified ethical, cultural and relational challenges and complexities unique to delivering online therapy within a pandemic and lockdown environment. The benefits and challenges reported by participants in this study were consistent with those reported in the international literature. The findings of this study suggest that despite the reported challenges, counselling psychologist participants viewed the aims and values of the counselling psychology discipline to fit with the ongoing integration of online therapy into clinical practice. Whilst the findings of this study are limited by its small sample size, it is the first study that specifically assessed counselling psychologists experience of delivering online therapy during COVID-19 in New Zealand from a practice-based lens.