e-teaching e-therapy: The challenges and necessity of teaching e-therapy skills in the virtual social work classroom

Paper to be presented at #husITa16 in Seoul, Korea, 29 June 2016.


Michael Berghoef, Janet Vizina-Roubal and Jessica Gladden (Ferris State University, USA).


The social work profession, including its educators, remains largely divided between early adopters of practice and educational technology and those reticent to embrace emerging technologies, preferring rather to keep as much as possible in a traditional face-to-face format. Tradeoffs in teaching online interviewing techniques in face-to-face, hybrid and online classroom situations will be illustrated and discussed. Various modalities were compared and contrasted including voice only, text only, and video with voice. Concerns regarding unintended consequences of online therapy, but also the consequences of failing to teach these skills (and failure to address this in current social work textbooks), will be presented in light of current literature and informed by faculty’s efforts to include this awareness and skill set in our current social work curriculum.

Students from a micro-counseling MSW class were surveyed prior to practice therapy sessions with classmates regarding their comfort and attitude utilizing various technologies. Students were asked to complete 30 minute practice therapy sessions utilizing text only, voice only, Skype, and chat or email. Students completed a post-survey and discussion with the professor regarding their thoughts, comfort, and attitude towards technology use within the therapeutic environment.

The results were provocative regarding competency and techniques in the online environment by untrained MSW students. Pre-surveys suggested students remain strongly uncomfortable and some had strong negative attitudes towards participating in e-therapy. While post-surveys concluded that students comfort and attitude towards e-therapy were greatly improved after being exposed and participating in e-therapy sessions.

Implications for social work education and practice include stakeholder receptivity, digital divide/rural access issues, reduced influence of social work due to early or late adoption by the profession, increased access to stigmatized populations and comparisons of effectiveness. Attitudes and receptivity of Social Work faculty, students, practitioners and other helping professions who adopted early will also be considered


To follow


To follow

Back to programme