by DeeAnna Nagel & Kate Anthony
#1. Establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust
Ensure a safe space and supportive relationship for personal growth, discovery and transformation.
Ensuring a space and a supportive relationship for personal growth, discovery and transformation online must include the technology and method of delivery.
Establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust often begins with the coach’s website or directory listing. The coach’s ability to describe his or her approach is essential, as well as a biography and background information that is professional but easy to understand. This helps establish trust and builds the potential client’s confidence in the coach.
For instance, how will the potential client first contact the coach? If the coach instructs the potential client to email the coach, the email process should be one that is secure and encrypted.
In addition to the initial steps for contact, it is important to explain the process of online coaching and how the coaching will be delivered.
Once the coaching relationship is contracted, the coach can offer guidelines for issues related to possible technological breakdown and for how to re-establish contact should a breakdown occur. For instance, a video session may suddenly end and unless the coach has explained the guidelines to the client, the client may not know the end of the session was not intentional. Likewise, telling the client similar guidelines about the use of email or journal entries is important as well. See the following statements as examples,
Please know that I will never disconnect during a session with you on purpose. Should we become disconnected during a chat or video session online, try to re-establish a connection. If that is not possible, email, text or phone me to reschedule.
Another key element in establishing a safe environment when working online is to discuss the Online Disinhibition Effect. This can be accomplished very simply by explaining to a new client that working online often has positive rewards because we tend to be able to open up easily. Encourage the client to become aware of his or her comfort level as they disclose information. For instance,
You may find that working online works for you because some people find it is easier to be open and honest about the coaching process- how you are progressing on your goals or what seems to be difficult. We have time, so be sure to check in with yourself about how much you are disclosing. It is easier to open up but sometimes when we share too much too quickly, we might feel a bit vulnerable afterward. If this happens, feel free to talk to me about it.
Because of disinhibition, establishing “between session strategies” is important. One example that we have already referred to is journal writing. Keeping the client engaged between sessions can aid in the client feeling safe, resulting in the likelihood that the client will take more risks in the coaching relationship. Other examples of “between session strategies” might include sending a positive affirmation text or emailing an article of interest to the client.
With regard to online communication, pacing and cues are different. Educating the client about the nuances of online conversation may be necessary but can also give the client a feeling of security knowing that the coach is willing to teach him or her about the unique aspects of the communication. For instance, during a chat session, the coach might write,
When you are typing out your thoughts, take your time. You can send me bits of information at a time by simply entering after you have typed a sentence or two. Likewise, I will do the same. If you ask me a question and I am pausing to think, I will type [pausing] to let you know I am with you but I am contemplating your question.
This article, excerpted from Online Coach Institute’s Specialist Certificate in Online Coaching curriculum offers a brief overview of a few of the technological nuances that may influence the establishment and maintenance of trust in the online coaching relationship.
Nagel is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Coach
in New Jersey.
Kate Anthony is a psychotherapist and Certified Professional Coach in Scotland. They co-founded the Online Therapy Institute/Online Coach Institute., and teach coaches and therapists how to deliver ethical and confidential services online. They can be reached at email@example.com.