Therapists’ experiences of ‘internet exposure’ in the therapeutic relationship: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Baraniuk, Stacey Marie (2021) Therapists’ experiences of ‘internet exposure’ in the therapeutic relationship: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. DCPsych thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute. [Thesis]

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The aim of this research was to investigate the effect on the therapist and the therapeutic relationship when clients obtained personal information about their therapist online and went on to disclose that information in a session. As social media has grown in popularity, many people have become accustomed to publishing information about themselves and others on the web. In this context, it is harder than ever for therapists to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Through understanding this phenomenon further, the research aimed to provide practitioners with recommendations that would inform their practice.
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was the chosen methodology because it offers a framework for exploring individuals’ lived experiences and therefore provides an in-depth and rich understanding of the phenomenon being studied. Semi-structured, one-to-one interviews were conducted with six participants. Each participant was interviewed twice with the second interview taking place eight weeks after the first. The second interview provided an opportunity to capture further reflections that may have emerged after interview one. Participants were qualified counsellors, psychotherapists and one psychologist who had had the experience of a client disclosing information about them that was obtained online – information that the therapist would not have willingly revealed to the client.
Four superordinate themes emerged during analysis: (1) Tension in peacetime (2) Breach of defences (3) Weapons (4) The aftermath: renegotiation with client and self. The war metaphor represents the struggle experienced by the participants and follows the journey from pre- to post-client disclosure. The analysis uncovered feelings of exposure, vulnerability and shame for the participants. These feelings made it difficult to navigate the therapeutic relationship, which was immeasurably changed in both positive and negative ways. The main “weapon” therapists used to defend themselves and the relationship was avoidance of the issue. This study therefore calls for more research and training on the phenomenon, in order to supply practitioners with the necessary tools for navigating this complex terrain.

Item Type: Thesis (DCPsych)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > Metanoia Institute
Item ID: 36568
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2022 14:35
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 17:57

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