A naturalistic study of the effects of synchronous online chat counselling on young people’s psychological distress, life satisfaction and hope

Mitchell Dowling, Debra Rickwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Online individual chat counselling is an emerging treatment modality that appears to be an effective method of providing single sessions of counselling to young people. Aims: This study aimed to investigate the effects of online counselling over a 6-week period and whether this was affected by the number of sessions attended or having sought additional help. Furthermore, this study aimed to explore the effects of congruent and incongruent client hopes and expectations upon treatment outcomes. Method: This study used a naturalistic prospective design, measuring online clients’ levels of psychological distress, life satisfaction, hopes, and expectations and tracking the number of sessions they attended or whether they sought additional help during the 6-week period. Complete data were collected for 152 young people aged between 16 and 25 years. Results: After 6 weeks, participant levels of psychological distress and life satisfaction were not significantly affected by the amount of online counselling received or by having sought additional treatment. However, participants who attended one or more online sessions reported significantly higher levels of hope 6 weeks later than those with no online counselling. Furthermore, participants with low hope but high expectations at the commencement of counselling reported significantly increased hope after 6 weeks. Conclusions: The implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-283
Number of pages10
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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