Date of Dissertation

5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Department

Social Work

Abstract

Clinical social workers place a high value on personal relationships and therefore question the efficacy of technology-mediated therapy. A common concern with technology-mediated practice is the lack of body language that could impede the formation of a therapeutic alliance. Educators share these concerns and have developed the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework. This banded dissertation uses the COI framework that conveys the ideal online educational experience through the concepts of a social, cognitive, and teaching presence.

The first scholarly section of this banded dissertation is a conceptual article regarding the COI. This article is outlines how COI may be used as a conceptual framework for conducting online therapy. COI provides guidance for educators who strive to have a positive experience with online teaching. Likewise, this model can serve as guide for clinical social workers wishing to engage in online therapy. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how COI may be used as a conceptual framework for conducting online therapy.

The second scholarly section is an article derived from the direct research completed for this banded dissertation. Technology-mediated services such as email, texting, phone calls, and video conferencing has the potential to increase participation in mental health services. However, many social work practitioners perceive online therapy as inferior to face-to-face therapy. This mixed methods study explored this perception during technology-mediated role-played sessions with Master of Social Work (MSW) students at a rural mid-western university.

The third scholarly section is a poster presentation. A poster was created by this author to depict the findings from this research study and subsequently presented at a national conference for collegiate educators. The presentation was based from the second scholarly section of this banded dissertation. Findings suggested that participants perceived there was no significant difference in forming a therapeutic alliance during face-to-face role-plays and technology-mediated role-plays. The focus groups’ findings provided six themes regarding student perceptions of technology-mediated social work practice. The findings and discussion are showcased within the poster.

There is an array of implications to social work practice, education and research as a result of these findings from this banded dissertation. For the social work profession to evolve within the digital era, new curriculum must be created, or old curriculum must be updated to infuse technology-mediated practices. It is essential that educators challenge existing paradigms which incorrectly indicate that online therapy is less effective than face-to-face therapy. This paradigm shift is imperative to the continued growth and evolution of the social work profession.

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