Seminar 1: University of Sheffield

24 February 2014

Theme: What can relationships science offer contemporary interventions?


Keynote speakers:

Applying technology to caregiving relationships in dementia

Prof Arlene Astell, Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH), University of Sheffield

Caregiving relationships are fundamental to meeting the needs of people with dementia but are challenged by the progressive erosion of communication skills.  This puts family caregivers under pressure to maintain personal relationships whereas professional caregivers must build new relationships with people who already have significant communication loss by the time they meet. This presentation will consider two projects that make use of technology to support caregiving relationships in dementia by addressing the problems in communication.

The first project is Computer Interactive Reminsicence and Conversation Aid (CIRCA), which makes use of touchscreen technology to support conversation between caregivers and people with dementia. CIRCA was developed to circumvent the working memory problems experienced by people with dementia that make holding a conversation difficult. The impact on caregiving relationships of using CIRCA is considered. This was followed by consideration of a second project, Adaptive Interaction, which uses video recording to equip caregivers to communicate with people with very advanced dementia who are no longer able to speak. The impact on caregiving relationships of using this nonverbal approach was also considered. Both projects were illustrated with videoclips illustrating dyadic interactions between caregivers and people with dementia.

Arlene Astill

(Inter)personal Computing: The Role of the Therapeutic Relationship in E-mental Health  

Dr Kate Cavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Sussex

E-mental health technologies are rapidly expanding the reach of psychological interventions around the globe. There is a growing evidence base supporting the potential benefits of these new technologies for psychological and behavioural health. Most of this evidence to date has focused on evaluating the feasibility and outcomes from such interventions, whilst limited research has begun to explore the change processes associated with their impact. In traditional psychological therapies the quality of common factors, including the therapeutic relationship, are widely held to be important for engagement and outcomes.

E-mental health interventions present a challenge to the importance of these factors, as therapeutic interactions are typically remote, limited, or even absent in the case of fully automated e-mental health programmes. This talk explored the role of the therapeutic relationship in e-mental health. Where measured, it appears that the relationship is fairly robust to distance and limited contact, but may be less intimately associated with therapy outcomes than is the case in traditional therapies. Where an intervention comprises little or no therapeutic contact Kate explored how some of the variance in engagement and outcomes may still be accounted for by relational factors embedded within the technologies themselves or offered through a supportive framework. Implications for theory, research and practice was discussed.

Kate Cavanagh