Online therapy, a picture of a counsellor

Tavistock Relationships’ first online therapy service has had a successful launch


Blog by Pierre Cachia, Head of Clinical services

In the latter part of 2016, Tavistock Relationships started to offer couple therapy outside of its traditional central London venues, via an online webcam platform for the first time.  This move into the era of digital delivery brought together a user friendly and secured online platform with the expertise accumulated throughout years of research and development in couple counselling & couple therapy (formerly referred to as marriage therapy).

The provision of Tavistock Relationships’ in-depth relationship psychotherapy via the online medium is innovative in many ways and for those of us involved in this project the experience has been both challenging and rewarding.  The service is delivered by experienced therapists who welcomed the encouraging result obtained in a recent review of the service as some of us had experienced a degree of apprehension about the move to online delivery.  We have been pleased by the intensity of the connection couples make with their therapists and the openness and immediacy facilitated by the medium.  We have found that techniques we have applied in our face-to-face therapy worked equally well when delivered via the digital medium.  Couples communicate the nature of their dilemma, the quality of the dynamic between them just as effectively, often using the provisions offered by the frame (the context in which therapy takes place in), as they would in face-to-face therapy.  The ‘space’ the couple occupy is admittedly very different. 

There is no formal therapy room as couples are often seated in their living room, office or even hotel room and yet the space and the manner it is lived in, in the same way the manner with which a client might sit in their chair, communicates something of the person’s relationship with the world within and around them.  We have found ourselves intrigued at how our attention was drawn to the nuanced co-created composition of the screen becomes meaningful and perhaps compensates for cues otherwise unavailable in the cyber space.  We realised that both couples and therapists are aware that digitally mediated communication has its limitations but we also noted how it tends to facilitate opening up or, perhaps more problematically, a disinhibition which we manage carefully to ensure sessions are not overly distressing.    

Feedback from couples has been most encouraging.  Couples and individuals receiving relationship help online all reported that they felt understood and their experience was taken seriously by the therapist seeing them.  Some reported specific developments which for those of us familiar with this line of therapy is indicative of a positive prognosis.  Clients developed new understanding of their own behaviour and that of their partner, trusted that their therapist was able to help them and found that pertinent questions helped them unpack difficult relational processes.

Our online clients, like all clients making use of services offered by Tavistock Relationships, complete questionnaires that help us assess the effectiveness of what we offer.  A major study recently published by the centre confirms the efficacy of our methods. Our experiences within the online service suggest that this new offer is effective and we hope that soon this will be evidenced by research supporting the effectiveness of online relationship therapy. 

You can book an appointment to the online therapy service here.