Would you believe that over the past 9+ years I have had hundreds of successful coaching relationships with people I have never laid eyes on? To be honest, I don’t know what 95% of them look like! Incidentally, I have also been coached successfully by a woman living in Australia that I also never saw!
Now before you go thinking I do some sort of work in the spiritual world let me explain. The clients and coach I mention are quite real. We just never met face to face.
While I have worked effectively with many people in my various roles of executive/leadership coach, success coach and clinical psychologist over the telephone and in more recent years via some form of video chat, i.e. Zoom, Skype, Facetime, many potential clients balk at the idea of not conducting coaching and therapy sessions in a face-to-face environment.
While I understand the assumptions behind people’s bias toward in-person sessions, research does not support this thinking. I worry that some people may be missing out on the many benefits of coaching and or therapy by limiting their options to face-to-face relationships. I’m writing this article for those folks.
Please consider the following top five advantages of virtual coaching and therapy and the supporting data before engaging an executive coach, success coach or therapist.
According to Kimsey-House et al. in the book Co-Active Coaching, “An effective coaching environment is safe enough for clients to take the risks they need to take and two, it is a courageous place where clients are able to approach their lives and the choices they make with motivation, curiosity and creativity.” Data suggests that this environment can be achieved with ease via telephone and video chat.
Top 5 Advantages of Virtual Coaching and Therapy
I. Cost: Without travel and office overhead, many practitioners (myself included) are able to charge lower fees for virtual coaching and therapy. Clients also save money by not having to travel.
II. No Time and Distance Barriers: When choosing coaches and therapists most people look for someone in their area but when engaging in virtual practices clients have a wider range of practitioners from which to choose. It is also convenient for those who travel because appointments can be kept no matter where the client is. The hours for appointments are also usually more flexible. For example, I will see a client after regular working hours virtually but not in person. Additionally, it may be easier for clients to meet virtually during their lunch hours, whereas that would be impossible if meeting face to face.
III. Comfort: Clients appreciate having sessions in the comfort of their own homes or offices. Without the burden of appearances, they usually choose to sit somewhere quiet and comfortable and to dress comfortably (something they usually can’t do in an office setting).
IV. Modeling: For leaders and others who work in an increasingly virtual world, virtual coaching and therapy provide an additional benefit of modeling great virtual conversations.
V. Diverse Group Sessions: Clients who participate in group coaching sessions may be energized by working with people from diverse locations, backgrounds and cultures. Virtual coaching allows coaches to bring together people who might not normally work together, and who have the potential to create unique and impactful experiences through their distinct ideas and perspectives.
The research literature has acknowledged telephone coaching as a way of enabling coaching on-demand, providing access to expertise, serving geographically dispersed individuals, reducing cost (Frazee, 2008) and promoting follow through and accountability (Charbonneau, 2002). In addition to recognizing these benefits, clients’ and coaches’ personal experiences with telephone coaching have been positive.
According to the International Coach Federation (2019), a study found “no difference in the reported level of problem resolution for face-to-face and distance clients.” The strength of the working alliance was found to be significant for problem resolution in distance coaching, and “coaches self-reported strong levels of working alliance in both conditions (face-to-face and distance).”
Another study (Day & Schneider, 2002) compared selected process and outcome variables across three modes of psychotherapy: face-to-face, real-time video conference, and 2-way audio (analogous to telephone). This study found very little difference in outcome and in some cases advantages to distance modalities. In fact, the major difference they found could be construed as favorable to the distance modes: “Statistics indicate that Client Participation scores were higher when clients were not facing to face with their therapists.” (Day & Schneider, 2002)
Please don’t get me wrong. I still very much enjoy in-person coaching and the hybrid of coaching/therapy that I offer and when a client is not comfortable with virtual coaching and I want to work with them I meet with them face to face, but I don’t want people to miss out on the value of coaching and therapy by not availing themselves of virtual modes.
What is your experience? Have you had virtual or in-person coaching or therapy? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you have any questions about the coaching or therapy services I offer, feel free to drop me a line, visit Cutts Consulting, LLC or visit Vision Quest Retreats
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