In the face of so many technological developments in recent years the practice of psychotherapy can seem strangely anachronistic and traditional; for the most part it is still two people talking to each other in a room. As I discuss in greater detail in this article for Contemporary Psychotherapy, the practice of therapy today has to respond to its environment, but it has to do so in a thoughtful, responsible, and ethical way. I am currently involved in an exciting new research project that hopes to enable our profession to do just this. In partnership with Stillpoint Spaces and The Zurich Lab, principle investigators Jakob Lusensky (Berlin), Stephen Setterberg (Minneapolis, US), Evangelos Tsemplis (Berlin/Zurich), and myself (London) are engaging in an exciting new project that will investigate the provision of online depth psychotherapy – a practice that is widely administered today, but as of yet, under-researched.
We feel that we are in a position to illuminate this quickly growing area using a qualitative psychoanalytic approach to the material. In essence, this means looking at the process of what is going on without getting lost in the content alone.
The Zurich Lab aims to “bring psychoanalysis to the streets” through a series of ventures that aim to apply ideas from the depth psychologies (contemporary psychoanalysis and Jungian thought among others) to culture through a variety of “happenings” and events. Stillpoint Spaces, in association with The Zurich Lab is a secure online platform through which counsellors and psychotherapists from across the globe see clients via video-conferencing. The partnership of these organisation lies at the very cutting edge of psychoanalysis and the digital age today.
A Psychotherapy for Today:
We recognise that the delivery of online counselling and psychotherapy has grown astronomically in the past decade. We are also aware that most practitioners who are working in this way are doing it in a casual, ad hoc manner. While there is some training available for counsellors who wish to work online, and several books to help them (see Psychotherapy 2.0 for example), there is little work out there that seriously investigates the dynamic processes that may be occurring by way of such interactions. Our consortium, with a particular interest in dynamic process and modern culture, is perfectly set to deliver this kind of cutting edge research.
Our pilot project involves a series of focus groups with counsellors and psychotherapists already working online. In keeping with the general theme of “a psychotherapy for today” all of our research will also be “for today” and will be carried out over the medium of video conferencing – just like the therapy delivery we are researching. We have selected a grouping of international psychotherapists of differing orientations who have varying degrees of experience working online. This will constitute research into the “delivery side” of online counselling. “Client-side” research is currently under development.
Using a Grounded Theory approach we will be running a series of virtual focus groups that will enable us to get a sense of the dynamics, challenges, and opportunities that online counsellors are currently facing. Themes that emerge will be coded, categorised and worked through amongst our enthusiastic team of participant researchers. At the end of the research we will to write up what we have learned so we can enable further research,and development in this exciting and growing field.
Not doing it the traditional way: keeping you informed as we progress:
While the findings may appear at some point in a peer reviewed academic journal, book chapter, or textbook, we are keen to exploit new technologies in new and exciting ways. That means that throughout our research (including this very blog post) we will be making our developing findings public as we go by way of a continuing research blog and by way of social media – both on my own Mindswork website, as well as those of The Zurich Lab and Stillpoint Spaces. We encourage you to bookmark or subscribe to your preferred URL to keep up with our work. You can also contribute to the conversation via social media.
It doesn’t stop here:
While developing the safe, effective and ethical online delivery of counselling and psychotherapy services, The Zurich Lab and Stillpoint have much bigger dreams – we are aiming to bring psychotherapeutic thinking to the 21st century by transcending the boundaries of the consultation room and making real stuff happen on the street, in culture, and online. Among these ideas (which will be supported by our ongoing research) will be the development of online spaces that enable and enhance psychological, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. We will be taking a multi-disciplinary approach to this by building relationships with cultural and arts institutions in major cities creating exciting psychologically smart spaces online and offline.
In a word: Watch This Space.
More from me in my book, The Psychodynamics of Social Networking: connected-up instantaneous culture and the self.
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