Therapeutic Goals in Online Youth Therapy:What Goals Do Young People Identify and How Do Counsellors Work with Them?

  • Zehra Ersahin

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


AIM: Despite the growing trend in offering online therapy to young people this area has received little attention to date. This project therefore aims to systematically explore work in this territory by investigating the types of goals that young people approach online services with, and the challenges and opportunities that online counsellors have experienced when working with them.METHODS: Initially 1,137 client articulated goals which were collated by an online youth counselling service in England between December 2013 and July 2014. Secondly, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six online counsellors who have utilised a goal-based approach to therapy with young people. Both data strands were examined by utilising the Grounded Theory Methodology.RESULTS: The goals young people brought into therapy were conceptualized under three core categories: (1) "Intra-personal goals", (2) "Inter-personal goals" and (3) "Goals on Self relating to others". Findings from the experience of online practitioners have provided four further core-categories: (1) "The impact of goals as an ingredient of the online therapy", (2) "The effect of virtual environment working towards goals", (3) "Key themes around youth goals", and (4) "The evolution of a practitioner's therapeutic identity".DISCUSSION: The codified types of goals proved similar to the taxonomy of goals articulated within the Berne Inventory of Therapeutic Goals. Nuances related to the online environment and age group of the clients appeared to be present and are considered. In particular, the concept of goals on "Self relating to others" provided some interesting discussion points on the nature of services provided in both online and face-to-face youth services. The practitioner views echoed the published literature reflecting on the broader experiences of working with therapeutic goals. However the lack of research into the experiences of counsellors working with therapy goals is noted. Further reflection on the findings suggested a four stage working model for goal oriented online therapy. Reflections upon the limitations of the work, implications for therapists, researchers and service providers interested in online therapeutic work are outlined.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Laura Winter (Supervisor)


  • Adolescents
  • Computer
  • Practice-based evidence
  • Qualitative methods
  • Youth counselling
  • Online counselling
  • Goal oriented therapy

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