Orienting to Emotion in Computer-Mediated Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Stuart Ekberg, Ali R G Shaw, David Kessler, Alice Malpass, Rebecca Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
421 Downloads (Pure)


Exploring emotions is a defining feature of psychotherapy. This study explores how therapists explore emotions when they cannot see or hear their clients. In analysing 1,279 sessions of online text-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) we focussed on therapists’ commiserations (e.g., “I’m sorry to hear that”) and their affective inferences (e.g., “that sounds very scary for you”). Both practices routinely prefaced moves to pursue a range of therapeutic activities, many of which did not prioritise sustained focus on the emotion that had just been oriented to. By separating message composition from message transmission, the modality used for these therapy sessions enabled therapists to combine orientations to emotion with attempts to shift the focus of discussion. Our analysis finds that although physically co-present and computer-mediated psychotherapy share a common focus on emotional experience, the modality used for therapy can be relevant in the design and use of these orientations. Data are in British English.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-324
Number of pages15
JournalResearch on Language and Social Interaction
Issue number4
Early online date1 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Computer-mediated
  • text-based
  • quasi-synchronous
  • e-therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • emotion
  • affect
  • feeling
  • affiliation
  • Conversation Analysis (CA)


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