Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 7-3-2012

Document Type



Gale, E. B. (2012). Psychotherapy Clients’ Online Behavior and Opinions Regarding Internet Searches Conducted by Therapists. Dissertation.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor David DiLillo. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Emily Brooke Gale


The Internet has become possibly the most popular medium to find information and communicate in our society. For the field of psychology, the Internet offers a new way to collect data and communicate with both study participants and, for practicing psychologists, possibly clients. Little is known, however, about the implications of interacting with clients online. The existing empirical studies in this area (DiLillo & Gale, 2011; Lehavot, Barnett, & Powers, 2010; Taylor et al., 2010) have focused on psychology graduate students’ actions online. These studies highlight the importance and paucity of research regarding the online behaviors of psychotherapy clients and interactions initiated by clients with therapists online. The purpose of this dissertation, therefore, is to address this gap in the literature by surveying clients regarding their online behaviors, any interaction clients have with therapists online, and how clients feel about contact with their therapists online. In order to address this gap, clients who are currently receiving psychotherapy services at a campus counseling center were surveyed regarding their online behaviors, opinions about searching, and opinions regarding therapists’ searches for client information. Overall Internet use was found to be very high among the sample, with most reporting using the Internet on a daily basis. Additionally, few reported any online contact with their therapist, and clients indicated that it would be mostly unacceptable for therapists to search for clients online. This study has several important implications for therapy including contribute to a growing literature addressing the role of the Internet in clinical practice in an increasingly electronic world.

Adviser: David DiLillo