After dispelling some of the concerns that exist about online coaching in a previous article, it is now time to explore its many advantages. I highlighted some of these in my article published in 2015 in the International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy titled “Conceptualizing MDT as a Moodle-Based Program for Adolescents and Adults to Relieve Belief-Oriented Distress.” Although the conceptualization is based on therapeutic relationships, interactions in the coaching environment have similar dynamics.
#1 – Potential Clients have Greater Access and Availability to Online Services
The first benefit is access and availability. While the global demand for coaching and other personal services continues to grow, low- and middle-income countries have far fewer professionals than they need to satisfy only the bare minimum of client needs. The need is becoming even greater with rapid urbanization, shifting work environments, and increasing performance pressures. Also, the rising worldwide phenomena of armed conflicts and failing states necessitate skills like empathy, communication, and wisdom to optimize peace and prosperity. As such, online services such as therapy and coaching can help relieve the inequitable distribution of services worldwide in a cost-effective and affordable way.
#2 – Online Coaching Supports Self-Reflection and Empowerment
The asynchronous and faceless nature of an email or online forum-based coaching interaction stimulates more intense self-reflection and disclosure. Users are able to follow the program at their own pace and have control over the timing of their interactions based on their needs and preferences, which promotes a feeling of empowerment. They can also use more time to think and reflect, thereby softening potentially awkward or emotional exchanges.
#3 – Writing is Therapeutic
Research and experience have proven that writing about emotional experiences has a cathartic and freeing result. Writing about emotional issues for a minimum of 15 minutes at least three times a week helps a person absorb events rationally and objectively. It also serves as a reference when reviewing thoughts later and determining the strategies that were effective and those that didn’t work. As such, it is a valuable reminder of progress and achievement.
#4 – Psychoeducation is Enhanced by Multimedia Applications
Improving the knowledge and understanding of a particular personal strength, technique, or mental health issue is a valuable part of therapy. Such education has an empowering and normalizing effect, that is, the user feels less alienated and alone in their struggles and learns the tools to initiate personal growth.
They learn of strategies that had worked for others and explanations of the mechanisms that underlie and sustain their difficulties and growth areas. Thereby they are able to work out their own solutions and plan based on the shared knowledge. The Internet environment is perfect for sharing a variety of useful materials, including educational website links, video clips, documents, and assessment tools.
#5 – The Online Coaching Relationship is at Least as Strong as in a Face-to-Face Setup
In an online setting where the client and service provider have a form of interaction such as email, Skype, or online forum, researchers have found that their relationship is at least as healthy and trusting as when they meet in person. Despite some arguments to the contrary, effective writing can convey empathy and compassion equally well, sometimes better as transference is less prominent.
Transference in a therapeutic or coaching relationship happens when feelings and attitudes of the client (and the provider too) are redirected subconsciously to the other person. It can be dependence, contempt, infatuation, aggression, or something else and is often based on repressed experiences that are projected from the past.
An online interaction gives both parties the time and distance to work through unexpected unhelpful feelings and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. It is especially true if the therapist is skillful in online communication and able to clearly convey their unconditional positive regard and acceptance for the client in that form.
Experts agree that the benefits of online coaching compared to one-on-one settings outweigh the common concerns that exist. Increased standardization of expertise and protocols through centralized certification and accreditation processes is making a huge difference to move the industry forward as a credible and cost-effective way to guide many people to discover and live their best selves by making a positive impact in the world.