A friend handed me an NY Times article yesterday, “When Your Therapist Is Only A Click Away,” (9.25.11 ). It cited a trend that is gaining public attention, the use of teleconferenced sessions between psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed therapists, and coaches and their clients. Digital software like Skype, third party sites, along with videoconferencing that have been around for several decades, have a growing number of clients using these media to plug into (if you’ll excuse the expression) their counselors for appointments.
My friend queried first, didn’t I want to have eye to eye contact with my clients, implying that this was necessarily as advantage. I demurred by asking back what her experience might be. She herself had little or none but I took the question to heart.
Is Skype coaching a good idea? and what parameters need to apply to both client and provider that protect privacy and maintain codes of ethics and payer issues? I’d be happy to have other life coach feedback on this. And let me state my bias: I like and prefer the telephone way of coaching I use with my clients, phone only. My practice is not that old but it was the way I was trained to offer and expect to provide coaching. Its practical convenience and mono-medium simplicity give the coach the focus on listening without distraction. It leaves both client and coach the freedom to appear however they wish without concern. I take this advantage to meditate and review notes and not worry if my background in my office is sloppy, rainy-dark or sunny-bright.
My first thought is that coaching works great using just the ear to directly access the brain and the rest of the nervous system and that leaving out the visual stimulae of eye contact and background visual cues or distractions on either side are a good thing for we coaches, this coach. Phone-only leaves or properly constrains the two parties to the conversation and their mental participation in it. Not a guarantee but I think phone-only encourages good rapport and honesty both ways, again, leaving out the other mix of message that humans use to assess overall communication between people. It won’t be possible for me to interpret any of our talk through your dress, your makeup, your tie, your knick-knacks on your desk, etc. or you mine in return. It’s cleaner. Pauses are still pregnant, so to speak, and the nuances of emotion in tone or pitch of both people are still there as subtle as ever. Guided visualizations, a tool I use frequently, may be enhanced this way too, for being aurally delivered. Eyes closed or not in such case then are not the issue.
I admit I’ve not invetiagted this issue very deeply. But I am interested longterm for myself in the potential for myself and my clients to have our sessions in ways that may be mobile, via laptops, wi-fi, and Skype if the clients has a clear preference for it. Then I’ll cross that bridge. I did have training with Edda J. in Iceland when she and I were trained by Lion Goodman via his teleconference phone line in California in his “Belief Closet” methodology. I think I was distracted a bit by the video stream but our exchanges went well. But my professional objectives there were slightly different. Apples to oranges.
A psychologist in the NYT article says, “in three years this will take off like a rocket.” We’ll see. For now I like riding my bike with two peddles, one handlebar, and enough gearing options to make any grade or terrain easier. More bells and whistles just aren’t necessary for the point of riding: my healthy exercise and some minor outdoor sightseeing. For me the same applies to my coaching, if you see my point. Less is more.
What do you think?
CF Benz, CPC, M.Div.