Going Digital: The Internet's Potential in Adolescent Psychotherapy

Sonya Wendell (2010)

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2007), 93% of adolescents are now regular users of the Internet. This dissertation examines identity development during adolescence and how the internet has become an important part of this process for many youth. I will demonstrate through the literature that the cultural influence of the internet can no longer be dismissed or ignored, and those of us who work with adolescents have an obligation to understand the role it plays inthe lives of those we treat. This examination will provide the basis for a discussion regarding the myriad ways which clinicians can use this information to inform and enhance therapeutic treatment. I will examine challenges presented by traditional therapy with adolescents, as well as ethical issues of incorporating use of theinternet in treatment. Treatment modalities that appear particularly amenable to this approach will be discussed, and pragmatic suggestions for clinicians will be provided. Hypothetical vignettes will illustrate how the internet could prove useful at all stages of the therapeutic process. This dissertation has endeavored to provide a thorough review of how adolescents are using the internet, risks and benefits, salient developmental issues, the role of parents, and potential therapeutic implications for clinicians. An argument has been made that the Narrative, No-talk, and Relational Behavioral therapeutic approaches would be augmented in positive ways by the inclusion of the internet as a source of clinical data and intervention (Straus, 1999, 2007; Taffel, 2005; White & Epston, 1990). The dissertation concludes with a discussion of salient ethical issues for clinicians to consider, and potential areas for further research.