Despite the exponential growth of the access and speed of online communication channels, many traditionalists remain convinced that online coaching, we can call it e-coaching, is fraught with life-threatening dangers and risks. Are they correct? To me, the answer is a resounding NO. However, some of their concerns are justified, but all are manageable by simple measures. Before looking at the many benefits of e-coaching in a second installment, let’s get some of these concerns out of the way first.
1# – The client-coach relationship is not as strong as in person-to-person therapy.
The correlation between the therapeutic alliance and delivery mode of psychological treatment appears to be weak and a similar conclusion is expected with coaching.
Multiple large research studies, including a recent analysis that combines the results of 840 individual reviews, by Madalina Sucala from the Mount Sinai Medical School in New York and her colleagues, titled “The Therapeutic Relationship in E-Therapy for Mental Health: A Systematic Review,” found no difference. They indicated that an online delivery seems to be at least equivalent to face-to-face meetings regarding building rapport.
It is a widely accepted fact that the strength of the provider-client relationship is directly related to the success of the service.
#2 – Visual and verbal clues are not as obvious, and misunderstanding is likely.
the article “Conceptualizing Mode Deactivation Therapy as a Moodle-Based Online Program for Adolescents and Adults to Relieve Belief-Oriented Distress” raises the fact that verbal and nonverbal signs may be lacking in online service delivery.
In text-based therapy such as email and Internet courses, there is a delay between the question and the response. The client can take as much time to think before answering as they prefer. Therefore, a more thoughtful and guarded response is expected rather than an instinctive reaction.
But is this necessarily a bad thing? No, it can be even more enlightening for the client as it allows him or her time to contemplate all aspects of the question. In a sense, it is more empowering as the client decides when they are ready to respond.
Nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language, which are usually very useful in person-to-person interactions lack or are completely unavailable in online relationships depending on the mode, such as video, email, or an online program.
But, think about it, does this not also remove some pressure and anxiety from the client? And, it certainly reduces the possibility of misinterpretation by both the coach and client. After all, body language can sometimes lead to guesswork and wrong assumptions, especially if the provider is not very experienced.
#3 – Will my information be private and secure?
The issue of online privacy and security is often raised as a concern. However, as with traditional person-to-person meetings, the provider has precisely the same duty and responsibility to ensure that client information is kept safely away from prying eyes and misuse. Nowadays, as data is stored electronically whatever the mode of service delivery, the safeguards put in place have to be efficient and secure, as does the ethical considerations of the use and distribution of client information.
#4 – How do I know I am getting a competent and ethical online service?
This is another frequently raised concern and, frankly, a valid one. However, the same uncertainty applies to traditional coaching services. It is still dependent on the expertise and credibility of the coach and his or her practice.
Any good online practice has their credentials prominently displayed on their website, which may include accreditations, endorsements, affiliations, qualifications, and physical contact details. If you are considering online coaching, make sure to check those and communicate with the company or practitioner personally if still unsure.
Similarly, such a service should have their terms and conditions, and limitations of service, expectations, and professional relationship clearly explained. There should also be contact references to emergency and other services, should it be required. If a provider meets all these requirements, the chances are that they provide an ethical and professional service!
These are four of the most mentioned concerns about online coaching, which can easily be overcome by simple practical measures and ethical practices in the coaching environment.