Clients in Simulated Teletherapy via Videoconference Compensate for Altered Eye Contact When Evaluating Therapist Empathy.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Clin Med, Volume 11, Issue 12 (2022)


<p>Eye contact is frequently associated with an increased perception of empathy and telepresence, but the currently used videoconferencing (VC) technologies diminish the possibility of naturally conveying eye contact. This study compared the empathy, telepresence, and eye gaze patterns of clients in simulated VC teletherapy sessions where eye contact was altered or facilitated. Forty-two would-be clients met with one of four therapists in training for one 20-min simulated teletherapy session taking place via VC. The session either altered or facilitated eye contact perception by manipulating the positioning of the webcams and of the clients in their chair. Eye-tracking data focusing on the eyes, face, and general body regions of interest were obtained for 25 clients. The results show that facilitating eye contact in VC did not increase the clients' perceptions of empathy or telepresence. However, empathy was associated with greater time spent looking at the eyes and faces of the therapists, but only in the sessions facilitating eye contact. We suggest that clients successfully rely on other verbal and nonverbal cues to detect therapist empathy when eye contact is altered in teletherapy sessions.</p>

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