Cybercoaches sound off

The advent of e-mail sparked an offshoot of professional coaching known as cybercoaching.

The idea is that coaches advise clients strictly via e-mail.

But the method has proven less than effective, and many coaches have abandoned cybercoaching in favor of the old fashion telephone or in-person visits.

"When I started coaching three years ago, I thought I was going to be a cybercoach [only], but it wasn't satisfying," says Harriett Salinger, who runs Wise Woman Coaching in San Francisco.

One of the biggest challenges is that many people don't communicate clearly when they write.

"Some people can't express themselves that way," she contends. "You can read pages of e-mail and you still haven't gotten to the core of the [problem]."

It also requires more time on the coach's end because you have to craft your messages carefully.

"You can very easily be misunderstood," says Ms. Salinger, who coaches only one of her 10 clients exclusively via e-mail.

John Seiffer, a coach in Brookfield, Conn., quit cybercoaching after having difficulties with a client a few years ago.

"Because we didn't know each other you lose that tone of voice. If we miscommunicated it took so much longer to fix," he says. "I decided it wasn't as much fun."

Cybercoaching tends to work best for those who communicate more clearly in writing, experts say, or for those who live in another country where it may be difficult to coordinate time zones.

For Salinger's sole cyberclient (who is based in Seattle), corresponding via e-mail seems to work well - they've been doing it for three years.

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