Exploring therapeutic alliance for digital mental health

Effective digital health interventions can be used to supplement under-resourced traditional forms of therapy or in some cases replace them. These interventions can reduce the resource burden on mental health services, extend services to isolated users, provide 24/7 support, and reduce the stigma and cost of attending traditional services (Mental Health Task Force, 2016.) It is well established that successful face-to-face psychological therapies require the development of a therapeutic alliance (TA) between therapist and client based on the negotiation of shared treatment goals (Martin et al., 2000). The world-wide expansion of digital therapies for mental health problems, which range from internet-based programmes delivered with support from mental health staff to mental health treatment apps independent of therapist support and interventions supported by artificial intelligence, have led researchers to consider the concept of therapeutic alliance in relation to digital mental health technology. Understanding digital TA is key to designing effective digital mental health systems.

This PhD project based in both Universities of Melbourne and Manchester, will explore how technologies should be designed to support the creation of a digital TA.  The questions being investigated will involve: How can we maximise current software capabilities to more closely emulate characteristics conducive to the development of TA?  How can we improve responsiveness to online therapies and create tailored and personalised intervention strategies?

Supervisors:

The University of Melbourne: Reeva Lederman and Simon D’Alfonso.

University of Manchester: Katherine Berry and Sandra Bucci.