Chat Lab

Interactions online: Zoom or Room

Helping people communicate as easily in online and in-person therapeutic conversations

NEW! Our research-informed guidelines for online intervention are here

The recording of our online presentation of results 6th May 2021 is here:

Health interventions moved almost overnight from in-person to online when Covid-19 restrictions came in. The same was true for education and social care settings. Many people felt a big difference in the way they connected with others. Zoom or Room asks: how can two people in an online conversation feel connected, and understood?

We have two main questions:

Can we detect differences in attunement in videos of in-person and online conversations?

What factors are linked to more connected conversations?

The project has three parts:

  1. Analysing video

This part is focused specifically on Video Interaction Guidance, a widely-used intervention to support clients to improve a relationship, for example a parent with their autistic child or a care worker with an adolescent needing mental health support. Practitioners record and reflect on their conversations with clients. Practitioners have records from in-person and remote meetings. We are using VIG principles (see  to fine-code videos in the two settings, so as to detect factors that support well-connected conversations.

   2. Interviewing practitioners and young people

We interviewed practitioners of VIG and a range of other people providing support services, such as paediatric diagnostic clinics, neuropsychological rehabilitation, pre-school play support. This helps us identify barriers practitioners have faced, advice based on their experiences and practical tips.

We sought the advice of YPAG so we understand better the challenges and opportunities when services move online. Their responses helped us build our survey.

  3. Surveying practitioners and clients

We ran an online survey to collect a broad range of experiences of practitioners working in health, education and social care. This informed the guidelines.

We are also surveying recipients of VIG about their experiences of moving from in-person to online.

We have a special interest in the experiences of autistic children and young people in receiving services online. This links with the launch of ACoRNS in October 2020. The theme of our inaugural meeting was re-thinking education and autism in the time of Covid-19. Practitioners, parents and autistic young people reflected on their experiences of education moving away from the classroom, and the differences this had made to their wellbeing. Our following event is on rethinking healthcare in autism. see @acornsussex for information.

Research team: Nicola Yuill, Devyn Glass (researcher) Children & Technology Lab, University of Sussex, Zubeida Dasgupta, Educational Psychologist, Brighton & Hove.

This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey, Sussex. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.