How Online Interventions Are Changing Coaching Forever

online coachingAdvanced technology and well-designed software can now support an engaging, practical, and rewarding environment for effective online coaching.

The “ongoing digitalization and automation of coaching practices is rapidly changing the landscape of coaching,” offering clients personalized services that are no longer limited by time or location (Kamphorst, 2017, p. 625).

Online coaching should not be considered a change in technique, but rather a new type of coaching conducted via electronic media (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

This article explores the power and potential of online coaching and why it is time to embrace this innovative coaching approach.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

What Is Online Coaching? 14 Benefits

What is online coaching?

“Electronic coaching, or e-coaching for short, is a new branch of coaching that is rapidly gaining popularity” (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015, p. 3).

E-coaching, web coaching, digital coaching, and virtual coaching (we will use the terms interchangeably) typically provide a personal, made-to-measure approach, where dialogue with the coach remains crucial.

Digitizing and automating coaching are proving successful in several different domains, including promoting physical activity, improving nutrition, and treating depression and insomnia (Kamphorst, 2017).

And while there is limited consensus on precisely what constitutes online coaching, Ribbers and Waringa (2015, p. 7) provide a valuable and insightful definition that warrants further breakdown:

“E-coaching is a non-hierarchical developmental partnership between two parties separated by a geographical distance, in which the learning and reflection process is conducted by both analog and virtual means.”

What this means in practice:

  • Coaching remains central to e-coaching, and personal contact continues to be vital. The most significant difference is the digital medium, including chat, email, video, and telephone.

  • E-coaching is typically less hierarchical than e-learning.

  • Learning and reflection processes take place in the client’s environment, as part of their lives.

  • Clients can more easily practice new skills and techniques in real-life situations (due to proximity).

  • Coaching is remote and time and location independent. The coach and client can choose when to engage directly with each other and indirectly via messaging tools and email.

E-coaching, like e-therapy, often involves clients learning new information through psychoeducation, written assignments, and homework to achieve specific behavioral change (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

E-coaching “engages proactively in an ongoing collaborative conversation with the user in order to aid planning and promote effective goal striving through the use of persuasive techniques” (Kamphorst, 2017, p. 629).

And while some may have concerns that e-coaching may be less personal than the more traditional face-to-face setup, research has found that online coaching is as effective and sometimes more effective than face-to-face therapy (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

With powerful new software platforms now available to support online coaching and provide both coaches and clients with many unique advantages, it is time to consider how online interventions are changing coaching forever.

 

What are the benefits of online coaching?

While online coaching has many technological advantages, not least its speed and accessibility, there are also intrapersonal and interpersonal gains.

The following list includes both the benefits of using this new, powerful platform and also the positive processes occurring within the client and between client and coach (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015; Kamphorst, 2017; Kanatouri, 2020).

1. Flexibility

E-coaching fits around other work and life commitments because of its flexibility in timing and location. Unless it includes a phone call or video chat, much of e-coaching is asynchronous, meaning the client can choose an appropriate time to respond. The client and coach do not need to be available at the same time.

2. Aftercare

Follow-ups and aftercare are vital for turning knowledge and learning into long-lasting and practical behavioral change. E-coaching software can help by automatically sending reminders and worksheets.

3. Arranging and rearranging sessions

Unlike face-to-face coaching, which typically requires travel, it is much easier to arrange and rearrange online chat, telephone, and video calls.

4. Social anonymity

While losing some nonverbal cues may seem like a disadvantage, studies have shown that doesn’t have to be the case. Clients making use of online coaching report feeling less judged or concerned about how they look and can get to the real issue more quickly (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

5. Written communication

“Writing is associated with improving insight, self-reflection, optimism, self-esteem and a feeling of being in control” and aids the therapeutic process (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015, p. 17).

The act of writing encourages awareness and facilitates positive behavioral change, with the added benefit of creating a record for both client and coach to reflect upon while building structure and motivation into the process.

6. Increased contact and engagement

E-coaching has the added benefit of promoting connection and increased client engagement. Coaches and clients can fit in sessions (even short ones) more regularly, and communication can take place in gaps in the day, either asynchronously or when both parties are free.

7. Breaking down tasks or goals

Increased and more regular contact and breaking down larger goals into smaller ones can improve the opportunity for success.

8. On-the-job coaching

E-coaching can occur anywhere, including in a job, family, or educational setting. The coach can help the client in a real-life situation or environment that brings the specific challenges within range.

9. Targeted coaching

Online contact removes much of the need for socially desirable behavior. Client and coach can more immediately identify issues and tackle the problems presented.

Increasingly, targeted coaching can also promote focus and, if performed in an environment where the client is not easily distracted, greater concentration.

10. Offline consultation

The coach can consult with third parties, experts, and resources for additional expertise without significant interruption to the coaching session.

11. Record keeping

Records can be easily maintained, with both coach and client able to revert to earlier homework or diary entries to assess progress, sticking points, or common themes.

12. Increased reflection

The immediacy and ability to see answers after they have been entered encourages reflection and learning.

13. Feeling in control

By choosing how and when to complete exercises and homework, clients are actively engaged in the process, with associated benefits to intrinsic motivation.

14. Reinforcement

Positive messages, homework, videos, and audio can be re-lived when required, to ensure reinforcement is positive and ongoing.

The degree to which the benefit and amount of e-coaching differs from face-to-face coaching varies depending on the style and the medium. While this article primarily refers to the use of e-coaching tools and platforms such as Quenza, remote coaching is also performed in other ways, including (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015):

  • Coaching by phone
  • Coaching by video conference (for example, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  • Coaching via a chat program
  • Coaching via email

The variety and use of each channel will change depending on the degree of integration into the coaching platform and practice.

Furthermore, communication methods will continue to evolve and improve the coaching relationship as long as they are appropriate to the client’s needs.

 

How Is E-Coaching Changing Mental Healthcare?

Online coaching softwareDue to various issues, including cost, availability, and location, many people cannot receive the treatment they require for mental health issues.

Technological solutions may hold the answer. Research comparing studies in which clients received face-to-face treatment versus internet-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (or both) for anxiety disorders found no differences between the groups regarding the size of the improvement (Olthuis, Watt, Bailey, Hayden, & Stewart, 2015).

Software and technological tools “are not only effective but also cost-effective,” enabling real-time assessments and coordinating interventions (Briffault, Morgiève, & Courtet, 2018, p. 5).

Technology may also help in other ways.

With the increasing availability of fitness trackers and smartwatches, we can identify activity levels, sedentary behavior, and sleeping patterns in clients. The move toward online e-coaching and e-therapy tools provides us with further data on moods, motivation, problematic thinking, and irrational thinking.

For example, research is ongoing about the potential for using biofeedback combined with e-coaching apps to treat patients with borderline personality disorder (Derks, De Visser, Bohlmeijer, & Noordzij, 2017).

Technology offers mental health practitioners increasing amounts of psychological, physiological, and behavioral data to draw conclusions and identify potential treatments and positive psychology interventions (Briffault et al., 2018).

 

12 Online Coaching & Therapy Interventions

We have many worksheets, coaching tools, and questionnaires that have been added to the Quenza platform, some of which are listed below. They can be used as-is or modified and re-purposed as needed, and are ideal for online coaching and therapy interventions.

The following are just a sample of possible interventions, grouped by function. They can be combined with others to form care pathways (or kept separate) and tailored as required before being sent to individual clients or groups.

 

Initial assessment

Early on in the online coaching journey, it is essential to understand how the client appraises their lives and what happiness means to them before moving on to identifying and setting goals.

These can be used for the initial assessment stage:

Wheel of Life

This popular and valuable tool identifies and scores specific life domains, including health, career, and relationships. The client can use the completed Wheel of Life to target where attention is needed.

Personal Values

Our personal values define who we are, and feeling authentic means living in line with them. Clients can complete the Personal Values Worksheet to understand what matters most and where to focus their time and energy.

PERMA model

Early on in coaching, it is helpful for the client to reflect upon the following questions:

What are your dreams?
What is important to you?
What do you want to accomplish in life?

Their answers will influence the life goals they set and the focus they give to areas of their life to make their hopes and dreams real.

Martin Seligman’s (2012) PERMA model helps us understand the elements of our lives that promote happiness and connectedness.

Use the PERMA Model worksheet with clients to help them recognize their five core elements of wellbeing.

 

Goal-focused interventions

Goal setting is a practical, results-driven approach to achieving our aims. It also has a positive impact on our wellbeing and helps us find meaning and purpose in our lives.

Big goals and challenges are often best handled by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

  • A Goals Vision Board can be sent to the client as homework. It offers a helpful starting point and a valuable tool to reflect on, clarifying dreams and goals.

The next two interventions provide a way to make dreams more concrete and attainable.

  • The SMART+R worksheet and the SMART Goals Worksheet use the acronym SMART to define and capture goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. It is a highly practical and pragmatic approach for online coaching.

  • SCAMP is another helpful approach that can be implemented in an online tool and sent out to the client. The SCAMP worksheet ensures each goal is specific, challenging/controllable, attainable, measurable, and personal.

  • Completing a self-contract online increases the chance of the client successfully completing their goals.

 

Building and using strengths

Too frequently, we focus on our weaknesses rather than our strengths. As a result, we are missing out on opportunities to excel and feel energized in what we do.

The following are ideal interventions for use in online coaching. They help the client identify their strengths and seek opportunities to use them.

  • Daily journaling can be a valuable technique for identifying and celebrating positive qualities. Use these questions to encourage reflection on what went well and how strengths contributed to positive outcomes.
  • As a standalone task, ask the client to capture their positive qualities and appreciate their strengths, talents, and achievements.
  • To continue the strength journey, use this worksheet to explore character strengths so that the client can use them in everyday life.
  • We often hold beliefs that hinder the use and development of our strengths. This tool helps the client identify limiting and false beliefs about their personal strengths and recognize how they are holding them back.

 

What Is the Best Online Coaching Software?

Quenza devices 2Finding and using the best, most appropriate tools is crucial for online coaching and offering interventions in a controlled and organized manner.

Technology should facilitate communication and knowledge sharing between coaches and clients in an easy-to-use yet completely safe and secure environment (Braddick, 2021; Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

Quenza is an industry leader in the provision of online coaching software and supports the growth of coaching businesses while offering a feature-packed, intuitive experience for both coach and client.

Three standout benefits (among many others) contribute to our belief that Quenza is best-in-breed as an online coaching platform:

  • Coaches can easily build homework exercises, intake forms, and psychoeducation (and much more) through an intuitive drag-and-drop frontend.

  • Coaches can build both generic and tailored care pathways for the client to work through, self-paced, with the coach receiving real-time updates on progress.

  • Coaches and clients have the opportunity for increased engagement both asynchronously and synchronously utilizing online chat, questions and answers, and feedback.

Psychologists, designers, and technologists have created the Quenza tools to provide all the benefits of remote coaching and a one-stop-shop for all online coaching needs. Quenza was created by the PositivePsychology.com founders with contributions from the wider positive psychology community, and it is custom built for the mental health industry.

 

How to Create Online Interventions in Quenza

Quenza provides many interventions, including worksheets, questionnaires, and exercises, for coaches to share with clients as part of dedicated care pathways.

For coaches who wish to tailor existing activities or create new ones, a drag-and-drop tool makes it easy.

The following video shows how to use Quenza’s Activity Builder to create, preview, and publish activities for clients.

Here’s how to create activities in Quenza and use them as online interventions with clients:

  • Open the Activity Builder.
  • Name your activity by clicking on ‘Untitled Activity’ and add a description in the Notes tab.
  • Once named, drag items (e.g., checkboxes, text boxes, date and time, images, audio, and media) onto the activity to create a new intervention.
  • Once tailored to the client’s needs, including appropriate guidance, instructions, and boxes to enter responses as required, the activity can be saved and published.

The new activity can be sent as-is to the client (or client group) or combined with other activities, including from the library of science-based activities already available in Quenza, to create a pathway.

The client receives a notification about the intervention and chooses when to complete it via the app or website.

The coach can track its completion via the dashboard. Once the client has shared a completed form, the coach can review the results and respond accordingly.

 

A Take-Home Message

Increasingly, coaches are growing their businesses and improving and diversifying the services they offer by including online coaching (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

While most coaches have made use of email, phone calls, and video calls for a long time, the move to online coaching involves change for coaches and clients, including learning how to manage a lack of nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions and body language.

A survey conducted of coaches who are using online coaching found that most recognize it as the future. They judged online coaching as a practical approach to focused, more intensive coaching that provides greater flexibility for the client (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015).

The power of online coaching is undoubtedly its flexibility. Tools such as Quenza facilitate five-minute catch-ups via dedicated chat tools and the submission of online diaries and worksheets for assessment. This would be unlikely, if not impossible, to achieve in person, and could provide valuable support to overcome unhelpful behavior or thinking.

Quenza helps coaches reach more clients and more fully meet the needs of existing ones. Why not try out some of the features to see how you could develop your coaching business and client relationships?

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 370 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

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  • Briffault, X., Morgiève, M., & Courtet, P. (2018) From e-health to i-health: Prospective reflexions on the use of intelligent systems in mental health care. Brain Sciences, 8(6), 98.
  • Derks, Y. P. M. J., De Visser, T., Bohlmeijer, E. T., & Noordzij, M. L. (2017). mHealth in mental health: How to efficiently and scientifically create an ambulatory biofeedback e-coaching app for patients with borderline personality disorder. International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics, 5(1), 61–92.
  • Kamphorst, B. A. (2017). E-coaching systems: What they are, and what they aren’t. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 21, 625–632.
  • Kanatouri, S. (2020). The digital coach. Routledge.
  • Olthuis, J. V., Watt, M. C., Bailey, K., Hayden, J. A., & Stewart, S. H. (2015). Therapist‐supported internet cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety disorders in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3.
  • Ribbers, A., & Waringa, A. (2015). E-coaching: Theory and practice for a new online approach to coaching. Routledge.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Atria Paperback.

About the Author

Jeremy Sutton, Ph.D., is a writer and researcher studying the human capacity to push physical and mental limits. His work always remains true to the science beneath, his real-world background in technology, his role as a husband and parent, and his passion as an ultra-marathoner.

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