In the era of digital communication, modern technology makes it possible to work with coaches living on a different continent and in a different time zone. Despite that, online coaching services still surprise and this can restrain some of us. However, as an expatriate living in a foreign country, it can be such a challenge to find appropriate support when you and your kids do not speak the language of the country. Online sessions can then be a real treat and a big relief.
I lived with my family for six years in Germany before returning to France, our home country. My expatriate experience increased my awareness of the challenges many expatriate families encountered and the importance for them to find good and appropriate help, whether it was technical, legal, medical or psychological support. As a parent, family coach and counsellor, I was used to offering my clients in-person services. However, when our family recently moved back to France I began to rethink this need to be in-person. I decided to offer face to face coaching services to French and expatriate families living in the Paris area, but also to offer online sessions to expatriate families throughout the world.
After six months of working in both online and face to face modes, I think that online counselling is definitely a really good option for some people. Even some of my local clients prefer our sessions to be online. The following is a look at the pros and cons of online counselling and coaching and a few of the insights I have gained.
The advantages of online counselling
You can freely select the most convenient time and place for your session. Some of my clients live or work very close to my office yet the online session still seems to be the best option for them since they can connect during their lunch break or in the evening when their kids are sleeping. Online coaching is also suitable for those who frequently travel or work staggered hours.
Gain of time, money and energy
Online coaching allows you to stay at your place, at home or in your office and therefore to preserve your time and energy. No traffic, no stress, no expenses on gas or transport. You simply connect online at the agreed time and you can get back to your life once the session is over.
Greater choice of practitioners
With online counseling, there are no limits to choosing a good practitioner. You can select amongst hundreds of qualified people from all over the world and find the one that best fits your particular needs. It might be someone who specialized in the area you need help in or it maybe someone who has a better cultural understanding of you and where your concerns come from.
Many online counsellors and coaches stay in touch with their clients and continue to provide ongoing support even when the contract is finished. This makes it easy to have continuity over the years so you are not having to start again with someone else when you move locations. This is a big bonus for lots of people. Knowing they will have someone who can be there for them regardless of where they are living can alleviate a lot of anxiety and stress.
Limitations and inconveniences
Although very rare, some technical issues might however occur. Things like sound quality, poor internet connection, difficulties with sharing files or opening some specific formats when a counsellor or coach wants to use multimedia support during the session. Most of these are easily overcome and with more options on how to connect remotely, they are becoming less and less of an issue.
Some clients prefer more personal and the warm interaction of face to face session rather than online communication that can feel at times to more distant. Indeed, face to face sessions can offer better understanding and offer more intimate atmosphere through body language, facial expressions and gestures but again with the increased options of how to connect this too is becoming less of an issue for people.
Safety and security
Some clients are worried by the use and communication of personal data and private information over the internet. However, many of the technologies and software offer great safety and confidentiality, and I personally have never encountered any issue during any of my sessions.
Other points to take into consideration
Before you make a choice between an online and face to face coaching, here are four main things you need take into account before you make your choice.
Define your problem and the desired outcome
To find a good practitioner you first need to know what your problem is, what situation you want to change and what outcome you are hoping for. This reflection will help you understand what kind of practitioner in which field would fit you the best. Even counsellors are broken down into specialities so you clearer you are going in the easier it will be to select the correct person to help.
Know your criteria
Are you looking for intimate and personal contact and working behind the screen is not something for you? Or is your schedule extremely busy and optimizing time is a key element for you? Also, ask yourself if having a session in a foreign language is a problem for you? Or is working with someone speaking the same language and sharing the same cultural background really important? Knowing your criteria will allow you to better choose the best option.
Meet and try
Look in your area and on the Internet. Ask friends and colleagues. Meet practitioners personally, some will offer a first free consultation which is a good opportunity to try the personal style of every particular coach. If after one session you don’t think it is right for you, you can always make a change.
Listen to your intuition
Intuition is an unconscious knowledge we all have. After you get a provider, visited his or her website, your inner voice will usually tell you whether you are willing to continue working with him or her, and you have enough trust and confidence in his or her skills and ability to help you.
The choice is very individual. Most importantly you need to like and trust your counsellor whether he or she works online or face to face. Just because your friends or colleagues enjoyed working with someone doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. When we decide to seek help it’s because we want to make progress, to make a change in our life, to improve the quality of our personal or professional life or to achieve something which is important for us. The first and main criteria should be deep confidence that whoever you have selected can help you achieve what you are looking for. So, if you ask me what is the best option between face to face and online coaching, my answer will be that there is not a good or a bad choice, there is YOUR choice.
Elena Goutard provides coaching and counselling services to parents and families. Elena is from Russia. She has lived in Germany and now resides with her French husband and family in Paris. She offers online consultations throughout the world.