This symposium on the digital therapeutic alliance was hosted by the University of Melbourne School of Computing and Information Systems and held at the university on Wednesday 7th August 2019. A Twitter stream from the day can be found here.

Call for Participation/Papers

The therapeutic alliance, the relationship that develops between a therapist and a patient, is a significant factor in the outcome of psychological therapy. As mental healthcare starts to increasingly adopt digital technologies and offer therapeutic interventions that may not involve human therapists, the notion of the therapeutic alliance in digital mental healthcare requires exploration.

Previous early work has examined the nature and role of the therapeutic alliance in digital mental health solutions (Lederman et al. 2019), what tools can be used to measure therapeutic alliance with an app (Berry et al. 2018), and suggested the importance of the quality of psychological treatment remaining high and consistent if these digital alternatives are to prove valuable (Henson et al. 2018).

What is the nature and role of the therapeutic alliance in digital mental health solutions? Does the traditional notion of a quality relationship between client and therapist holds true in the digital environment? Do aspects of the traditional therapeutic alliance have digital analogues and what novel aspects emerge in the digital realm? This symposium is interested in these and a broad range of questions on the theme of the digital therapeutic alliance. We are also interested in the various ways this theme can be explored, such as:

  • The standard patient-therapist alliance in the case of telehealth therapy sessions.
  • The relationship between a mental health app and its user.
  • The relationship between users and their smartphones.
  • The nature of the therapeutic alliance in AI-driven interventions, including chatbots and virtual human therapists (Alexios 2019).
  • Ethical issues resulting from this new type of alliance formation.

We invite those interested to submit an extended abstract of no greater than 1000 words. Please send this abstract to symposium organisers:

  • Associate Professor Reeva Lederman:
  • Dr Simon D’Alfonso:

Important dates:

  • 26th June – Extended abstract submissions due
  • 10th July – Notification of acceptance
  • 7th August – Symposium

Authors of papers that have been submitted and accepted will be invited to give a presentation at the symposium. Non-author participants are also welcome.

The twitter hashtag we will use is: #digitalta19

The symposium will be associated with a special issue of the journal JMIR Mental Health, on the topic of the digital therapeutic alliance. Papers presented at the symposium will be given priority for inclusion in the special issue, although those not attending the symposium are still invited to submit a full paper to the special issue.

Submission information for this special issue of JMIR Mental Health can be found at: https://mental.jmir.org/announcement/view/188



  • Alexios, B. 2019. “Psychotherpay in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” Homo Vitualis (2:1), pp. 68-78.
  • Berry, K., Salter, A., MOrris, R., James, S., and Bucci, S. 2018. “Assessing Therapeutic Alliance in the Context of Mhealth Interventions for Mentlal Health Problems: Development of the Mobile Agnew Relationship Measure (Marm) Questionnaire,” Journal of medical internet research (20:4), p. 12.
  • Henson, P., Wisniewski, H., Hollis, C., Keshavan, M., and Torous, J. 2018. “Digital Mental Health Apps and the Therapeutic Alliance: Initial Review,” BJPsych Open (5:e15), pp. 1-5.
  • Lederman, R., Gleeson, J., Wadley, G., D’Alfonso, S., Rice, S., Santesteban-Echarri, O., and Alvarez-Jimenez, M. 2019. “Support for Carers of Young People with Mental Illness: Design and Trial of a Technology Mediated Therapy,” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) (26:1), p. 33.


Associate Professor Reeva Lederman is a member of the School of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, where she leads the Digital Ethics group and provides the public face for health information systems research as chair of the People and Organisations research theme area. She has published in leading journals such as the European Journal of Information Systems, ACM Transactions on Human Computer Interaction and JMIR Research Protocols.

Dr Simon D’Alfonso is a lecturer and research fellow in the School of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne. He also serves as tech lead at eOrygen, the digital mental health division Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. Via this affiliation, he leads the Digital Technology and Artificial Intelligence for Mental Health research project in the School of Computing and Information Systems.