This study aimed to investigate psychological therapists’ perceived ability to form a working alliance and maintain therapeutic boundaries, and their work involvement patterns whilst working remotely via telephone or videoconferencing. Furthermore, the study aimed to explore therapists’ experience of therapeutic boundaries when working remotely and how they managed these.
A mixed-method sequential explanatory design was adopted. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse quantitative data, with thematic analysis used to analyse qualitative data.
In total, 161 psychological therapists completed an online survey, and 12 participants were selected using maximum variation sampling to engage in a semi-structured interview. Although results between therapists varied, some perceived abilities regarding the working alliance and therapeutic boundaries differed when working remotely compared to face-to-face therapy. Therapists’ work involvement patterns also differed compared to existing data for face-to-face therapy, indicated by increased rates of stressful involvement. Considering therapists’ experience of therapeutic boundaries, four overarching themes were identified: ‘different boundaries in remote therapy’, ‘work home boundary’, ‘changes in the therapeutic safe space’ and ‘impact of boundaries when working remotely’.
Aspects of the working alliance and therapeutic boundaries are experienced differently by therapists working remotely, which relates to how they experience their work. The findings have clinical implications for increasing therapists’ awareness of potential changes in their perceived abilities regarding the working alliance and therapeutic boundaries when working remotely, therefore, enabling them to address these changes where required. Future research possibilities are considered.