Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Jane Abrams, DSW, LCSW

Second Advisor

SueAnne Piliero, PhD

Third Advisor

Frani Pollack, PhD


COVID-19 has not only killed and infected millions of people worldwide but has also resulted in unprecedented psychosocial stressors that continue to have profound mental health consequences for many people, exacerbating pre-existing psychological suffering and contributing to the onset of new stress related conditions. It has also resulted in a major revolution in the delivery of mental health treatment abruptly shifting psychotherapeutic practice to online technology. Psychotherapists need to be prepared for how their clinical work may change.

This qualitative research study has been phenomenological in nature, attempting to capture and contribute to the literature on the lived experience of psychotherapists in navigating the transition through a global pandemic and exploring how the accompanying shift to telehealth has impacted clinical practice and the therapeutic relationship, if at all. A single-session, semi-structured interview lasting approximately one hour was conducted over Zoom with 15 mental health clinicians certified in an integrative psychotherapeutic attachment-based treatment model Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP). Research findings and data were analyzed using a thematic coding process and principles of grounded theory.

Significant findings of this study included the identification of factors that might negatively impact the online therapeutic relationship and the recognition of ways to strengthen and enhance telehealth effectiveness with an attachment-based and relational lens. Advantages and disadvantages of telehealth practice were identified and explored in addition to the effects of shared trauma on the therapeutic relationship and the post-traumatic growth and resilience of the therapist. Implications for theory, practice and social work education are discussed. Limitations included the small size and homogeneity of the study sample.

Included in

Social Work Commons