Are there interactional differences between telephone and face-to-face psychological therapy? A systematic review of comparative studies

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

Annie Louise Irvine - Speaker

Despite comparable clinical outcomes and a growing adoption of telephone service models, there remain concerns among therapists and patients about the delivery of psychological therapy by telephone. These concerns centre around the quality of the therapeutic relationship and the ability to exercise professional skill and judgement in the absence of visual cues. However, assertions in the literature about interactional differences between telephone and face-to-face psychological therapy are frequently unsubstantiated by comparative research evidence.

Our paper will present the results of a systematic review that aimed to establish what is known empirically about differences in the interactional features or qualities of psychotherapeutic encounters conducted face-to-face vs. by telephone. The review was conducted in the context of a broader research programme which seeks to enhance the quality of psychological interventions delivered by telephone in primary mental health service settings: Enhancing the quality of psychological interventions delivered by telephone (EQUITy), funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (RP-PG-1016-20010)

The systematic review identified 15 studies that used situated, comparative approaches to exploring interactional aspects of telephone and face-to-face psychological therapy. These studies revealed evidence of very little difference between modes in terms of therapeutic alliance, disclosure, empathy, attentiveness or participation. The only consistent mode-related difference was that telephone therapy sessions were significantly shorter than those conducted face-to-face.

These findings highlight a paradox between subjective perceptions of interactional difference - or deficit - and the lack of empirical support for such claims. Implications for professional practice and future research will be discussed.
23 May 2019

Event (Conference)

TitlePrimary Care Mental Health Conference
Period23/05/1923/05/19
LocationUniversity of Manchester
CityManchester
CountryUnited Kingdom
Degree of recognitionNational event

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