Contemporary Technology and the Therapeutic Frame

Unfortunately, Dr. Trub and I have been facing an obstacle in the completion of the study, due to the delayed transportation and installation of necessary cameras into the nursery at Pace’s McShane Center. Because this study is rooted in the observation of dyads and the coding of their behavior, we cannot proceed until the cameras are installed. So, for this post I will be blogging about another study I am working on with Dr. Trub.

This is a qualitative study which will explore the impact of contemporary technology on the therapeutic frame. The study will be based on semi-structured interviews with clinicians from various theoretical perspectives. For this study, I will be coding, transcribing and analyzing qualitative data. In a later phase, I will also be trained to conduct interviews. The study has been approved by Pace’s IRB and we will begin interviews by the end of the month, so there will be more material to write about and present at the conference at the end of the year.

The therapeutic frame is the context in which therapy takes place (i.e. the time, place, the method in which a therapist and patient schedule appointments, or how much personal information a therapist makes available online). What is referred to as the “therapeutic frame” is not uniform. Each clinician, regardless of theoretical orientation, has different ideas about the best way to facilitate effective therapy.

As I mentioned above, we are asking “where does contemporary technology fit into this?” Clinical psychologists make active decisions about maintaining aspects of the therapeutic frame. With changes in communication technology (email, cell phones, social media), the therapeutic frame may be changing as well.

Only a few years ago, many therapists could only be contacted by their office number. Now, a patient can potentially reach a therapist at any time of day (i.e. sending an email or leaving a voicemail on the therapist’s cell phone) and therapists must make active decisions on how to navigate these situations.   

What you know, or think you know, about your therapist informs the way you view them, stirring up judgments, fantasies, and attitudes about who they are and what they believe. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, these transferences — these transferred emotions and assumptions — are thought to be facilitated through the therapist’s anonymity. Contemporary technology (like Google searches) may allow patients to disintegrate the therapist’s anonymity. How does this play out in therapy? Our goal is to explore how today’s therapists navigate these contemporary challenges in maintaining the therapeutic frame.

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