Online and telephone life coaching

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Whilst traditionally the most common method of coaching involves coaches meeting one-to-one with clients in an office, today online, email and telephone sessions are emerging as an alternative and more convenient way to access coaching.

Face to face meetings can build rapport effectively between coach and client, but online, email and telephone coaching can offer individuals the same level of support and confidentiality, as well as numerous additional benefits.

In particular, online and telephone coaching have proven effective for resolving some of the main difficulties associated with receiving coaching in a traditional setting:

Accessibility - There is more flexibility and time available with online or telephone coaching, and this means sessions can be arranged with minimum prior notice.

Affordability - Although telephone conversations will include a minimum fee, generally online and telephone coaching is less expensive for both the client and the coach. Costs such as postal and travelling expenses, staff-hire and venue use are automatically lost.

Anonymity - Online and telephone coaching services offer the client a higher level of privacy as well as leaving them the option to remain anonymous. This is beneficial for clients who may feel uncomfortable in a face to face setting - especially when answering personal questions about themselves. Telephone or email conversations with a coach can help clients to be less inhibited and more likely to discuss important, but sometimes embarrassing issues they are seeking coaching for.

Better connection - Some coaches may argue that talking on the phone or via email will minimise distractions and provide better connection with the client. This may help to improve the efficiency of the coaching service and promote better results.

Flexibility - A lessened crossover period between clients, in combination with a series of additional factors, often mean that online and telephone sessions can be offered at more flexible times than face to face coaching.

Convenience - Online and telephone services mean that clients are able to receive support from the comfort of their own home, or wherever it is that they are - as long as there is Internet and a phone connection available. This is a hugely beneficial aspect for the following individuals in particular:

  • Housebound and/or disabled individuals.
  • Parents who cannot afford childcare.
  • People who travel frequently or are too busy to commit to regular face to face appointments.
  • People living in remote areas who are far from a coach's office.
  • Hearing impaired - instant chat and email coaching mean that an interpreter will not be required.

The growing demand for online and telephone coaching is most probably due to recent progressions in Internet and mobile phone technology. Today these technologies exist as fundamental components of every day for millions.

According to the Office for National Statistics, a huge 83% of households in the UK are now connected to the Internet, whilst between 2010 and 2013 access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled - going from 24% to 53%.

With so many people now online on a daily basis - either for leisure or work - Internet and telephone coaching are ideal alternatives to many of the challenges some individuals face when attempting to arrange face to face sessions.

Is online and telephone coaching effective?

Coaching online and via phone is still a relatively new concept, so research into whether these modes are as effective as traditional face-to-face methods is minimal. Despite this however, positive results have been reported, and this could be linked to advances in technologies such as mobile phones, bandwidth, and videoconferencing applications. These have made online and telephone coaching feel more like face to face interactions.

Furthermore, to make up for the loss of facial expressions and visual actions, telephone and online coaching is thought to instigate improved communication between the client and coach. For example, on the phone clients and coaches may become more efficient listeners - consciously forcing themselves to hear more and better process what is being said. Online, both the client and coach are more likely to use vivid, descriptive language to get their views, thoughts and advice across - particularly via email in which writing is the sole means of communication.

Online coaching

Online coaching essentially refers to any form of coaching that is conducted over the Internet. This could be via an exchange of a series of emails, or it could be over a video programme that enables a coach to talk to their client in real time.

Whatever mode of Internet communication is used, online coaching is an ideal way for individuals to seek confidential and professional support at any time that suits their schedule. They can enjoy the flexibility of arranging sessions, or completing questions and exercises at times most convenient for them. Online coaching also ensures that individuals can access coaching if, for whatever reason, they cannot attend a traditional face to face setting.

Email coaching

Email coaching allows a client to work with a qualified online coach via an email exchange. The process typically involves the client typing out the issue they would like to work on, followed by a carefully considered response from their coach. This will include recommendations, questions, and resources to get the client moving forward. Goals will be created and a plan of exercises will be developed to keep the client accountable.

If used in tandem with face to face sessions, email coaching can enable clients to receive highlights from each coaching session so that they can refer to the content anytime they wish. Others may find the medium beneficial for recording their innermost thoughts which they may not have felt comfortable discussing face to face with their coach.

Furthermore clients can email their coach at any time to keep them updated on progress or to seek additional support and advice. This gives them the freedom to document what is on their mind as it occurs - rather than having to wait several days for their next face to face coaching session.

A coach will generally aim to get back to their clients within a 24-hour period during the working week. In most cases there will be no requirement for how often clients can email, but this will need to be clarified before coaching commences.

How does email coaching work?

As mentioned above, email coaching will revolve around a series of email exchanges between the online coach and client. However, before coaching actually begins the client and coach will need to clarify the following details, usually during a few initial email exchanges:

  • Some background information about the client.
  • Whether or not email coaching is the appropriate coaching method for the client, depending on their needs, goals and preferences.
  • Guidelines on how many times the client is able to email the coach.
  • The time frame in which the client can expect to receive a response.
  • Fees - what is the cost of each email exchange?
  • Privacy and confidentiality policy.
  • Cancellation policy.

Following introductions and agreements of service, some coaches will email the client a welcome pack and some initial resources before the coaching begins. This can help the client to prepare themselves for the email exchanges and will provide a guide and support throughout the entire process.

Skype coaching

An increasingly popular online coaching option for those who are too busy or simply cannot attend face to face sessions is via Skype. Skype is a computer programme that enables people to video chat in real time with other people over the Internet. The software is free and is easy to download, and no special equipment is needed. All that is required is a webcam and a microphone, which most laptops and computers come fitted with. These are relatively inexpensive to purchase if not.

Skype works well for many because clients are able to physically see their coach - a factor that people often miss during email or telephone coaching. Just like these other methods however, Skype coaching allows clients to attend a session from the comfort of their own home or anywhere in the world as long as there is Internet connection available.

How does Skype coaching work?

Usually a client will be required to contact their coach via email or telephone in the first instance to arrange an initial consultation. Together both individuals will plan a suitable time to 'meet' and discuss why the client needs coaching.

During the initial consultation clients can take time to get comfortable using Skype, whilst making the most of the opportunity to get to know their coach and how they work. This will help them to decide whether or not the coaching style is appropriate for them, and can effectively meet their needs and goals.

In terms of payment, the coach may ask clients to pay via a secure online payment before the session, or they may ask for credit card details at the end. It is important to keep personal details safe, so clients are encouraged to carry out payments in a safe and secure manner.

Do you need to be computer literate to have online coaching?

It is inevitable that basic computer skills are needed to pursue the option of online coaching, but a client does not need to be a technical genius to make email or Skype coaching work for them. Furthermore, the vast majority of coaches who do offer these services will be able to provide a step-by-step simple approach to getting started.

Telephone coaching

Telephone coaching works in the same way as face to face coaching but is conducted over the telephone. Some coaches may offer this as an additional avenue of support between face to face sessions, whilst others may focus solely on conducting the coaching over the phone.

Telephone coaching sessions eliminate the challenges presented by face to face coaching. This makes the service much more accessible and convenient - particularly for those who cannot attend face to face coaching sessions.

How does telephone coaching work?

The first step is simply for the client to get in contact with their coach so that a brief discussion can be had about the issue they require coaching for. The coach will also usually outline their confidentiality policy as well as general information such as cancellation policy.

If telephone coaching is decided upon as the most appropriate means of coaching, the coach will arrange future telephone sessions at times to suit the client. During these sessions a coach will talk to clients about their lifestyle and will assess their situation and concerns. This information will then be used devise specific goals and plans, which will be implemented, reviewed and revised across an agreed number of telephone coaching sessions.