Essential Elements of Internet Infidelity Treatment


  • Katherine M. Hertlein, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program, University of Nevada, Nevada; Fred P. Piercy, PhD, is a Professor of Family Therapy in the Department of human development, Virginia Tech, Virginia.

Address correspondence to Katherine M. Hertlein, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Pkwy, Box 453045, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89154-3045; E-mail:


As the worldwide usage of the Internet tops 1.6 billion people, problems related to its use such as online Infidelity are becoming widespread issues for couples and, consequently, for their therapists. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how practicing therapists treat Internet infidelity through exploring the basic themes used in Internet infidelity treatment. We conducted in-depth interviews of 15 therapists with experience in treating Internet infidelity. Our findings indicate that therapists go through a variety of steps in treatment, including: (a) develop physical boundaries, (b) develop psychological boundaries, (c) manage accountability, trust, and feelings, (d) increase client awareness around etiology of the Internet relationship, (e) assessment of the couple’s context and readiness for change, (f) assess the presence of unique circumstances, and (g) work toward forgiveness. Implications and future research are discussed.