Perceptions of the Therapist in a Virtual World: An Exploratory Analog Study

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Abstract

Empathy, regard (Lambert, 2013; Rogers, 1951) and credibility (Lambert, 2013) are common factors of therapy and are often considered important contributors to therapeutic outcomes. Moreover, each is perceived by the client and not inherently characteristics of the therapist. In this analog study, we investigated whether initially engaging participants through Skype (rather than face-to-face) would impact perceptions of empathic understanding, level of regard, and credibility. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions and asked to complete a brief interview and follow-up survey. Contrary to expectations, participants’ perceptions of empathic understanding, level of regard, and credibility did not change by modality of the interaction. Implications for the practice of psychotherapy and for future research are discussed.

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