Table_1_Exploring the Question: “Does Empathy Work in the Same Way in Online and In-Person Therapeutic Settings?”.docx (658.21 kB)
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Table_1_Exploring the Question: “Does Empathy Work in the Same Way in Online and In-Person Therapeutic Settings?”.docx

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posted on 21.09.2021, 04:28 authored by Raffaele Sperandeo, Valeria Cioffi, Lucia Luciana Mosca, Teresa Longobardi, Enrico Moretto, Yari Mirko Alfano, Cristiano Scandurra, Benedetta Muzii, Daniela Cantone, Carmela Guerriera, Marco Architravo, Nelson Mauro Maldonato

Providing remote psychotherapy using technology is a growing practice, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if in numerous studies video conferencing psychotherapy (VCP) was found to be clinically effective, some doubts continue to exist about how the psychotherapeutic alliance works in the online setting, and the characteristics of the empathic process are still poorly understood. This is an exploratory study aimed at analyzing the degree of empathy between the psychotherapist and client pair, and the degree of support perceived by the client who shall be referred to as the patient interchangeably in this study, comparing the sessions in person with those online, during the current pandemic, in order to discriminate the impact of empathy in the digital setting. The sample analyzed was composed of 23 patients with different severity of pathology engaged in online and in-person therapeutic sessions with five psychotherapists of different theoretical leanings. The scores of the support and empathy scale, obtained by both members of the psychotherapeutic couple in the two settings, were analyzed and compared. The test used belongs to an Italian adaptation of the Empathic Understanding (EU) of the Relationship Inventory. What emerged from comparing the scores was interesting: Unlike the psychotherapists, the patients perceived their therapists as significantly more empathic and supportive in the remote setting. These are rather important data, because the literature documents that client empathic perception measures represent a more accurate measure of the empathic relationship and, in general, can predict a good treatment outcome. Although these results need further investigation, they represent an important contribution in filling the scientific gap in the understanding of digital empathy. Also, this study provides new insights for future research on the characteristics and impact empathy has on the practice of remote psychotherapy.