Trainee Counselling Psychologists' Perspectives on the Therapeutic Uses of Self in an Online Text Based Simulated Counselling Session

  • Gregory Warwick

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background and Literature: Technology is slowly but surely finding its way into the therapy room. As such, it is moving from the position of being used to aid therapy, such keeping notes on a computer, to being used to facilitate therapy such as online counselling. The sub-type of online counselling known as internet relay chat is a form of counselling that relies solely upon text alone; having no visual or audial cues to aid the therapy and is what this study focuses on. The therapeutic use of self is a difficult concept to define even 55 years after being first introduced. It is a concept that pervades all therapeutic approaches in some way and can be referred to as the planned use of personality, insights, perceptions, and judgments as part of the therapeutic process. It is therefore an important part of therapeutic work with five types of use of self being identified in the literature: use of personality, use of belief system, use of relational dynamics, use of anxiety and use of self-disclosure. However, prior to completing this study it was unknown as to how this core skill could be translated to internet relay chat. Methodology: Eight participants provided transcripts from 20-minute long internet relay simulated counselling sessions. These sessions were part of a training exercise with participants being students from the University of Manchester who were practising online counselling with each other. This study was a mixed-methods study following an explanatory sequential design. The first quantitative stage was a directed content analysis that coded the transcripts for therapeutic uses of self. The second stage was a qualitative grounded theory analysis that analysed semi-structured interviews that looked at the reasons behind why the uses of self from the first stage were used and their perceived impact. Findings: The directed content analysis found that therapeutic uses of self could indeed be translated within this medium with 53 occurrences of self-disclosure, 45 uses of relational dynamics and 15 uses of personality. There were no examples of use of belief system or use of anxiety within this study. The grounded theory analysis resulted in 463 open codes, which were organised under the core category of therapeutic use of self online. This was succeeded by 7 axial codes which were, Conducting Research, Context of Internet Relay chat, Impact of Using Uses of Self, Patterns of Behaviour, Reasons for Using Uses of Self or Not, Therapeutic Use of Self and Impact of Training Exercise. Discussion and Conclusions: The use of self differed from the way it is reported to be used in the participant's face-to-face work and the compensatory techniques used proved similar to those found in the existing literature. It is recommended that that this is a useful exercise for trainee counselling psychologists to undertake as part of their training. This holds value as not all participants knew what a therapeutic use of self was, despite their importance within therapy. It is also beneficial due to the shift in communication we as a society are experiencing.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Laura Winter (Supervisor)


  • technology and counselling
  • online counselling
  • counselling
  • Internet relay chat

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