An in-depth exploration of the experience and sense-making of transactional analyst psychotherapists working with clients who present with Internet addiction.

  • Matthew Shorrock

Student thesis: Phd


Background: This thesis explores, in-depth, the experience and sense-making of transactional analyst psychotherapists working with clients who present with Internet addiction (IA). It engages with the therapist's broad experience and understanding of Internet addiction presentation, therapeutic assessment, 'diagnosis' and 'treatment' rather than the singular experience, expression, and meaning-making of the individual client. Method: As a counselling psychologist trainee, I was particularly interested in sampling highly experienced therapists, with an extensive range of skills developed through a robust clinical training. Four therapist participants, all professional members of the European Association of Transactional Analysis (EATA), were interviewed using semi-structured, one-to-one interviews and the material was analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA). Findings and Discussion: Four higher-order concepts emerged within this study. They concerned: the complexity of IA; aetiological and predisposing factors; functions and features of IA; and treatment factors. Practical and theoretical implications for future research, clinical supervision, treatment, psycho-educational and political programmes are presented. Of the key emergent findings the Internet was understood by participants as a conduit or medium for addiction given a high prevalence of an underlying 'disorders'. All of the participants believed in the existence of childhood aetiological roots which underpinned comorbidity with IA. Attachment difficulties in childhood would often predispose individuals to develop issues around loneliness, low self-esteem, control, loss and instability, and cognitive dissonance later in life. Participants believed a relationship existed between depression, low self-esteem and escapism as contributing factors. Conclusion: A systematic review of the extant research is proposed, along with quantitative studies to specifically evaluate the strength of this relationship. Further empirical research is particularly recommended to explore how these factors can predispose individuals to developing sub-types of IA, and especially in the context of historic childhood abuse and / or neglect. The complex nature and aetiology of IA can demand a high level of clinical expertise from professionals who would benefit from specific trainings concerning childhood attachment difficulties. Integrating a psychodynamic approach, or being aware of transference processes, could possibly enhance treatment effectiveness, and help safeguard both clients and therapists from counter-therapeutic interventions.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Elizabeth Ballinger (Supervisor)


  • Internet addiction; treatment; aetiology; interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA); transactional analysis; counselling psychology.

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