by Anke Ulmer
Cyberspace offers the opportunity to use and even combine various synchronous (simultaneous) and asynchronous (time-shifted) communication modes. Particularly innovative as a means to communicate virtually in the synchronized mode in a three-dimensional environment is coaching using avatars.
Avatars directed and guided by human users communicate and act as physical representations of real people in a virtual 3-D arrangement. It has become possible now to create new scenarios for human experience, which can be used to coach clients through change.
The avatars as representatives of coach and coachee meet virtually in cyberspace. Quite similar to the real-world situation the client is first being welcomed by the coach in the reception area of the 3-D world before both avatars proceed to the actual coaching area. Various designs are available for this area, like ordinary business surroundings or, rather relaxed, some nice open air setting, and others.
The client then describes his/her situation. In the process of describing the issue and clarifying the matter of concern he/she is restricted to a mainly problem-focused view. There is a specific pattern inextricably linked with this state-of-mind, combining cognitive as well as emotional, social and also physiological aspects.
With the aim to assist the client to get beyond that state of confinement, the general principles of the Karlsruhe School of Coaching are centered around guiding the client into a solution-focused mindset (solution patterns), which enables the client to gain access to his/her potential of creating new options of reaction or behavior.
There are several rooms available in the 3-D setting to help achieve this, offering various tools like e.g. a multi-media screen or virtual sculptures for constellations. Moving from one room to another is considered an intervention in itself.
Neuroscientific findings on the representation and mapping of human experience in specific areas of the human brain provide the corresponding theoretical background for this (embodiment). For instance, the coach changes rooms, e.g. settings, for different stages of the coaching process.
This approach helps to change the client’s way of thinking and how he/she reacts emotionally and physiologically. A systemic constellation of a team, for instance, could take place in one room in order to at first represent the initial issue, and later again for simulating solutions, after the client has been guided into a solution pattern and activated an awareness of resources.
To achieve this the coach needs to successfully facilitate the client changing his/her psychological (reaction) pattern and assist in initiating the re-framing process, in other words: the coach needs to accomplish the transition from a problem-focused to the solution-focused mindset, on the basis of an awareness of the resources available.
In a next step the client may take the position of the figures or sculptures as placed in the constellation to not only look at the new situation from different perspectives but in fact even experience it from a different person’s point of view.
Thus, the proceeding within the coaching process is enhanced by additional useful perspectives. It is possible for the client to actively simulate solutions in the virtual environment and test them for their feasibility before actually being put into practice. The entire virtual process as such is recorded and made available for scientific research.
Owing to the high degree of efficacy of the method introduced here, coaches working in such virtual environments should be able to demonstrate high standards of professionalism; they should also keep to a defined code of ethics and submit to standard procedures of quality management.