7 Reasons why we benefit from online coaching
We buy shoes, find partners, learn languages – all of this online. There is hardly any area of our lives the internet stops at. And why should it? It has the potential to make many things easier. Why not coaching as well?
Even if, according to the The Tenth Annual Executive Coaching Survey, still over 90 percent of all clients meet their coach at least once in the analog world, the number of coaching sessions that are held online rises steadily. The suspiciousness about online coaching, however, does not decrease nearly as rapidly. Sure, the internet comes in handy for shopping, chatting and sharing – but many ask themselves: Is it the right medium when it comes to serious life or career decisions?
In short: It can be. And here’s why:
1. It is easily accessible for everybody – anytime
Nearly a 100 percent of clients still think meeting in person offers the best setting for coaching.
However, for many people face-to-face coaching is not an option at all. They might live in rural areas where coaches are hard to find. Or be expatriates who would like to be counselled in their mother tongue – but cannot find a Portuguese speaking coach in Australia. Being able to communicate online gives these people the chance to work on themselves with a coach in the first place.
Clients who usually meet their coach face-to-face benefit just as well – online sessions allow them to still communicate during a journey or after moving towns.
2. It saves time and money
It is not unusual that coaches spend as much time travelling around as they actually spend on coaching. Both – client and coach – can save time and money with every session held online.
This applies especially to short ones. With online coaching, a quick exchange or follow-up can comfortably be squeezed in daily life, e.g. before work or in the lunch break. Meeting in person, however, would consume much more time, energy and money than a short session might feel worth.
3. It makes coaching a part of everyday life
Snuggle up with your laptop on the sofa – et voila: You are ready for your online coaching. Critics point out that lolling at home is no solid basis for seriously working on your problems. But on the other hand, clients receive coaching exactly where they are supposed to benefit from it: in everyday life.
4. It can be even more effective than face-to-face coaching
Many studies back the evidence that support via the internet can be as effective as life sessions – in some cases even more promising.
A study of the University of Zurich showed that online therapy can be just as successful as the conventional method when treating moderate depression. More striking: The patients who had been cared for via internet were 15 percent less likely to have a backslide than the control group. Why so? Many of them reported that they reread the online correspondence. The therapeutic success was boosted because the therapy content was saved in a digital form.
Transferring this to coaching, this means: People are likely to benefit longer from the insights of coaching, if the sessions produce digital content they can revisit later.
5. It’s impersonal? Actually not!
Another surprising thing about the Swiss study is: People who had been given online treatment rated the contact with their therapist more personal than those who had actually met with those same therapists in person! This gives a strong counter-argument to the fear that virtual coaching has to be impersonal.
6. It doesn’t necessarily limit our use of senses
It is true, however, that online communication makes it more difficult to read a person’s body language – for instance, because you usually do not see the whole person in a video call.
Critics also point out that we can’t use all our senses when communicating via the internet. Truly: The senses of smell and taste are neglected in online coaching. But, to be honest, they usually are just as neglected in pretty much any form of live coaching.
Online we just do not interact in the same way we would offline. But ‘different’ is no synonym for ‘worse’! Modern technology provides methods to see and hear each other in high quality and without time delay. Furthermore, virtual reality gives us the possibility to interact with objects in a virtual space, as if we were touching them.
7. It adds a multiplicity of possibilities to the coaching process
Especially virtual reality gives us possibilities that real life does not: We can create and change environments within a few mouse clicks, we can look at them from any perspective we want – even from other people’s – and thus visualise and share what is on our minds. Mulling things over and over in our head is is not nearly as effective as getting them out into the open. Virtual reality not only gives us the chance to translate our thoughts into a visual representation, but also to modify things with a few mouse-clicks and save them for as long as we want.
We might not read much of another person’s body language while interacting in that virtual room, but, e.g. in CoachingSpaces, we are able to observe every movement of their cursor. Interpreting mouse cursor movements is for most of us a lesser field-tested skill than reading body language, but it can also reveal a great deal about the inner life of a person. Probably we just need a bit more exercise to grasp which possibilities technology offers in order to connect with people.
To wrap it up: There are things we can do in face-to-face coaching that are impossible online and vice versa. And this is great! Online coaching is not to displace face-to-face coaching, but a way to enrich the coaching process as a whole. Findings suggest that especially a combination of online tools and traditional methods is most promising.
It is just as simple as that: The more possibilities there are to support people in their development, the better coaching can be adjusted to people’s individual needs.