Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 197–206 | Cite as

(Inter)personal Computing: The Role of the Therapeutic Relationship in E-mental Health

  • Kate Cavanagh
  • Abigail Millings
Original Paper


E-mental health technologies are rapidly expanding the reach of psychological interventions around the globe. There is a growing evidence base supporting the potential benefits of these new technologies for psychological and behavioural health. Most of this evidence to date has focused on evaluating the feasibility and outcomes from such interventions, whilst limited research has begun to explore the change processes associated with their impact. In traditional psychological therapies the quality of common factors, including the therapeutic relationship, are widely held to be important for engagement and outcomes. E-mental health interventions present a challenge to the importance of these factors, as therapeutic interactions are typically remote, limited, or even absent in the case of fully automated e-mental health programmes. This paper explores the role of the therapeutic relationship in e-mental health. Where measured, it appears that the relationship is fairly robust to distance and limited contact, but may be less intimately associated with therapy outcomes than in traditional therapies. Where the intervention comprises little or no therapeutic contact, we explore how some of the variance in engagement and outcomes may still be accounted for by common and relational factors offered through a supportive frame or embedded within the technologies themselves. Implications for theory, research and practice are presented.


E-mental health CCBT Computer-aided psychotherapy Internet interventions ICBT Internet therapy Common factors Therapeutic relationship 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of SussexEast SussexUK
  2. 2.Centre for Assistive Technology & Connected Healthcare, and Department of PsychologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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