Coaching in a Virtual World – Your avatar will see you now

  • Tammy TawadrosEmail author
  • David Tinker
  • Andrew Jackson


In this article, we begin by defining key terms such „virtual reality“ and „avatars“, and describe the „ProReal“ system. We set out the rationale behind the design of „ProReal“ – a virtual world, avatar-based software designed for coaching. We describe how a coach would use „ProReal“, showing its potential to accelerate learning, insight, and profound change. We suggest that coaching in „ProReal“ requires practices that privilege the „client-in-charge“ and working in a „trialogue“. That is, in a three-way conversation between the client, the world the client sets out in „ProReal“, and the coach. The coach acts as a facilitator, enabling the client to use the softwrae render thoughts, feelings and relationships in a visual world, enriched by narrative and symbol; to find alternative ways of perceiving, thinking, and feeling - rehearsing new behaviours in the virtual world before taking action. We present the science that underpins „ProReal“, and emerging evidence about its effectiveness. Finally, we propose a brave new world of coaching, where the avatar is prominent, and which democratises and enriches work with clients in hitherto unimagined ways.


  1. Clough, B. A. & Casey, L. M. (2011). Technological adjuncts to increase adherence to therapy: a review. Clinical Psychology Review 31(5), 697–710.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Clutterbuck, D. (2016). Supervision and the Virtual World. http://www.“ProReal” Scholar
  3. Cozolino, L. & Sprokay, S. (2006). Neuroscience and Adult Learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 110, 11–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Csikszentimihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  5. Falconer, C. J. et al. (2014). Embodying compassion: A virtual reality paradigm for overcoming excessive self-criticism. PloS ONE 9(11).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Heron, J. (2001). Helping the Client – a creative practical guide (5th ed). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Kirwan, G. H. (2016). Psychological Applications of Virtual Reality. In I. Connolly, M. Palmer, H. Barton, G. Kirwan (eds.), An Introduction to Cyberpsychology (pp. 271–285). Abingdon, England: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Nolte, J. (2014). The Philosophy, theory and methods of J. L. Moreno: The man who tried to become God. N.Y: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science 8, 162–166. Scholar
  10. Pennebaker, J. W. & Chung, C. K. (2011). Expressive writing: Connections to physical and mental health. In H. S. Friedman (ed.), The Oxford handbook of health psychology (pp. 417–437). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Quackenbush, D. M. & Krasner, A. (2012). Avatar therapy: where technology, symbols, culture, and connection collide. Journal of Psychiatric Practice 18(6), 451–459.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Riva, G. (2005). Virtual reality in psychotherapy: review. Cyberpsychology & Behavior 8(3), 220–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Sternberg, P. & Garcia, A. (2000). Sociodrama: who’s in your shoes? (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  14. Suler, J. (2016). Psychology of the digital age: Humans become electric. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Valmaggia, L. R., Latif, L., Kemptom, M. J. & Maria, R.-C. (2016). Virtual reality in the psychological treatment for mental health problems: An systematic review of recent evidence. Psychiatry Research 236, 189–195.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Van Rijn, B. et al. (2015). Avatar-based therapy within prison settings: Pilot evaluation. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Deutschland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ProReal LtdLondonGroßbritannien
  2. 2.ProReal LtdOxfordGroßbritannien
  3. 3.ProReal LtdOxfordGroßbritannien

Personalised recommendations