Publication date: Sep 21, 2023
Virtual psychotherapy for chronic pain (CP) has been shown to be feasible, efficacious and acceptable; however, little is known about how virtual delivery of group psychotherapy affects participants’ experiences. This study aimed to explore the impact of a virtual medium during the COVID-19 pandemic on social interactions and therapeutic processes in the context of group psychotherapy for CP management. This qualitative, interview-based study collected data on 18 individuals who participated in virtual group psychotherapy in a tertiary care pain management unit. Results of the thematic analysis showed four themes. First, ability to participate and connect was modified by not meeting in person. Connections also occurred differently as the usual patterns of interactions changed. Participants described important shifts in how emotions are communicated and subsequent experience of empathy. Finally, the commonality of chronic pain experience was identified as a central driver of connection between participants. Mixed impacts of the virtual medium on group psychotherapy dynamics and processes were found. Future research could explore ways to mitigate the negative impacts.