Ethics of online coaching

Recently, I gave a presentation on the ethics of online coaching at Oxford Brookes University The question I wanted to ask was, what happens to ethics when we go into a digital environment?

Arguably, ethically, online coaching has the same issues as  face to face coaching. In that a coach will seek to create an environment where their client can trust them to help them to think well for themselves in order that they can move forward from their present situation.

However, the nature of contracting for any service online requires us to be much clearer about what is going on at any point in the contract. A friendly lawyer, who works for one of the many organisations who audits websites for a “trusted” status, handed to me a booklet filled with legal, regulatory, technical based criteria I needed to provide beyond the essential information that described my service. I can not deny that I was a little alarmed by the volume and variety of obligations I had to declare.

In summary, from my current understanding, an ethical policy for any online service will need to include:

  • A clear description of what the service is with the key aims, objectives and outcomes
  • An easily understood description of the choice(s) of communications via the Internet
  • Tutorials on how the communications technology works
  • A guarantee that all information, shared online, will be kept secure and remain confidential
  • A demonstration of compliance to legal, regulatory and insurance issues such as consumer protection
  • A demonstration of skill, competence, qualifications and accreditation of a recognised coaching model
  • A discussion to agree the contract. Times, process, potential conflict of interests etc.
  • A procedure for the payment process with an “acknowledgement of order” and  “right to cancel policy”
  • A code of ethics accessible for review online

This seems like a lot to do to be an online coach. So I decided to ask a few people to see what they do. How do you manage your ethical obligations in the digital ether?

To help me to gather some data I created two surveys using Survey Monkey. The questions were based on a number of sources as well as what I have learned from running my coaching sessions online.

The first survey asked a series of questions about what you do to create an ethical coaching practice as a coach.

The second survey set out to find out what the client thinks! What would they want to see their coach doing on the ethical front?

If you would like learn more about how to complete your own ethical audit on your coaching practice and/or you would like to see the results, send in your contact details with a request via the Strong Enterprises contact page.