The Project

The Internet and (mobile) audio-visual communication platforms offer a variety of opportunities for online psychotherapeutic interventions. Even though online treatment carries a number of distinct advantages and evidence is emerging for its clinical efficacy, a variety of concerns have been raised by therapists in relation to using online therapy, and few professionals are utilising this technology to its full potential.

One key concern pertains to the use and acceptance of the technology itself. Therapists are frequently unacquainted with the possibilities and advantages of online treatment, and unsure how to integrate online tools within their own therapeutic practice. Additional barriers to acceptance include worries about technological difficulties, as well as usability issues, security and privacy issues, and reliability issues.

A second key concern has to do with the quality of the technology-mediated interactions. Traditional counselling is characterised by a rich exchange of verbal and nonverbal communication signals, that signify a way of gauging a client’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and help establish trust and rapport. Depending on the form of online intervention, many of the essential nonverbal cues (facial expressions, body language, eye contact, social touch) may be diminished or lacking entirely.

This project aims to address these concerns, by offering a game-based approach to therapist skill development in using online tools. First, therapists will be challenged to explore online tools, using a serious game where principles of community encouragement and social modelling, virtual and mixed-reality interactions, and learning-by-doing will be implemented, as part of an eMental Health “sandbox”. Second, based on recent advances in mobile psychophysiology, novel technologies using physiological measures will be examined on their potential to enhance empathy and rapport in mediated communication.

This project is a collaboration between University of Technology Eindhoven (TU/e), Tranzo (Tilburg University), GGzE, Fontys, and Philips (for the entire team, see People).