Does Empathy Work the Same Way in Online Therapy?

Exploring the Question: “Does Empathy Work in the Same Way in Online and In-Person Therapeutic Settings?”

Does Empathy Work the Same Way in Online Therapy?

Exploring the Question: “Does Empathy Work in the Same Way in Online and In-Person Therapeutic Settings?”

My newsletter covers a fair a mount of research weekly, but I figured this deserved it’s own notoriety. Full disclosure, I a have an unapologetic bias towards face-to-face psychotherapy. Now, I will admit that there is great utility and use case for “telehealth.” Though there are circumstances, many of my clients, where it is decidedly inappropriate to do so… alas, I digress.

These researchers did a good job of pointing out that the one possible reason for the higher empathic congruence via telehealth is that “treatment as usual” was not usual — masks and dividers were in place, etc.

Something else we must be wary of in a study like this is covariance and confirmation bias. Of course, empathy is a critical ingredient for successful therapy. However, “good” therapy is not cheerleading. That is, how “well you like me (as a therapist)” and “how well I like you (as a client)” may well be the thing inhibiting your progress.

So, yes, good therapy requires rapport and a relationships. A productive relationship does require empathy. Clinical outcomes are not solely indicated by degree of empathy; a trait specifically (and precariously and intentionally) left out of the outcome measures in this study. Why? Why is our metric for success how much we like each other in a professional setting rather than the reduction of suffering you sought help for?

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