Avatar Association and Behavioral Change

kate_sadowskyKate Sadowsky, MA

Avatar Association and Behavioral Change

I facilitate support groups for a weight loss program called Club One Island that takes place in virtual reality, which requires some explaining. Our participants and instructors, in our self-designed avatar bodies, share in an immersive online environment designed to support their behavior changes around weight loss and movement, together through the Island. We hold support groups in luxury tree houses, sitting underwater on giant crabs, relaxing on clouds in the sky—what better environment to test our own perceptions on what’s possible!

 Even in this environment, tone of voice, breathing, choice of clothing, posture of people’s avatars, and where they choose to sit in the circle offer clues as to how they’re doing in their process of change. Sharing this unique environment, combined with sharing the challenges of making healthy changes in our lives, is surprisingly intimate. And the playful educative qualities of a virtual world allow all of us to question more freely, to find more creative solutions, to move outside of our usual patterning. Using a virtual environment gives participants an opportunity to literally try out a new behavior through their avatars, and see if it fits. When you’re flying on a magic carpet, many things seem possible that may not have before!

 In the group setting, I’m aware that any questions I ask of one person will be heard and adapted by the group, so through asking powerful questions I’m modeling a process of inquiry that can be adapted to any life situation and any environment. I see the clients’ fullness, strength, and potential; I hold a mirror up to them so that they can see it, too. The play of coaching is in slightly altering the angle of that mirror so that it can reflect people’s true selves as clearly as possible. And since the mind behind the avatar and the mind behind the physical body are the same, these new ideas, behaviors, and tools are carried from the digital experience into our physical realities.

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    • Hi Lauren,
      Thanks for your interest. I just spoke with Kate and, unfortunately, the funding for this project fell through. However, you can still visit the site for some visuals http://www.cluboneisland.com/ and maybe do some of your own searching on Second Life, avatar association, and using avatars in association with cognitive behavior change. It may be more psychology-related but could be worth looking into. If you find anything on coaching, we would love to hear of your findings!