1. What does a health coach do?
The National Board of Health and Wellness coaching has this definition of coaching:
Health & wellness coaches partner with clients seeking to enhance their well-being through self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values. In the course of their work, health & wellness coaches display an unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, honoring the fact that each client is an expert on their own life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.
A health coach is an expert in sustainable behavior change, has knowledge about wellness recommendations based on current research, and acts as a support person for people seeking change and/or support. A coach creates a non-judgemental, safe space for exploration, creativity, and vulnerability.
2. What is my approach?
I have my Master’s degree in integrative health wellbeing coaching, which means I look at clients with a holistic lens. What does this mean? I don’t simply focus on physical health or symptoms of a diagnosis. An example is a client with diabetes. A client comes to me with high blood sugar and wants to only focus on dieting because that’s what they think they “should” be doing. I encourage them to cast a wider lens on their life and see what other aspects of life they want to look at. Movement, access to care, balanced meals, stress management, family support, availability of medication, all can be part of improving high blood sugar. I help a client look at all these factors and see what areas might need attention, then support the client in giving them the attention they need.
I also encourage clients to focus not solely on physical health but mental and spiritual as well. This looks like talking about values, life purpose, relaxation, rituals, goals, mindfulness, and much more. I do my best to create a safe and sacred space to share ideas, talk about hopes and dreams, and move you towards gentle action.
I am also involved in my own growth as a coach and regularly communicate with peers and mentors to hold myself accountable and connected. I believe that I set an example as a coach therefore I tend to my own health and well-being with that in mind.
3. What are the benefits of seeing a health coach?
There are many benefits of coaching! Here are the top 7 I hear most from clients:
- Finally making forward progress after being stuck for years. This is because of the support, accountability, and working through barriers that a coach can help you with.
- Feeling more connected to and able to focus on your needs and wants, as opposed to your “shoulds."
- A deeper connection to your inner wisdom which can help you navigate challenging and stressful circumstances.
- Realignment to what is important to you. I have clients who truly appreciate how coaching allows them to explore how to do more of what they love to do and focus on the present.
- Increased well-being through lifestyle skills and self-care. This can look like reduced stress, feeling less anxious, having routines that comfort and soothe you, and prioritizing your health (however you define that).
- Reduction in symptoms (anxiety, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, depression, feeling stuck, lack of motivation, etc) due to finding lifestyle changes that support your health and wellbeing and leaning into what you are already doing.
- The power of having an unbiased listener to talk to. Many clients report that simply having someone to talk to who listens and provides curious questions results in change without much work on their end. There is a benefit to speaking things out loud and “putting things out there” in a safe space.
4. What’s the difference between a life coach, a health coach, and a therapist?
There is overlap in all of these professions. The biggest difference between a therapist and a coach is that coaches do not diagnose any type of physical or mental disorder/illness. Coaches also do not dig into past trauma or ask you to share specific information regarding past experiences. One very simplified way to think about it is that therapy has a past/present lens and coaching has a present/future lens.
Life coaching can be specifically about career career and life path choices, although many life coaches have a broader range. The way to know? Ask! A coach will be open about what they feel comfortable working on with you and should have clear boundaries around what they do not do.
5. How do I choose a coach?
Explore their website and/or social media to get a feel for their approach and areas of expertise. Once you have a one that looks interesting, talk to them! Most coaches offer a free intro conversation, “curiosity convo”, or a reduced first session. This is your time to ask questions, get a feel for their approach, have them tell you their background, explore pricing etc.
You can also ask for a referral from another wellness practitioner you use. Word of mouth is a wonderful way to find a coach.
6. What credentials do coaches have?
There are a ton of up and coming coaching programs out there. If it’s important to you, I’d take a quick look at what the coaches program does in terms of hours and classes. There are two large credentially organizations. The first is the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). The second is the International Coaching Federation (ICF). I am certified through the NBHWC which involves 36 hours of continuing education and recertification every 3 years.
7. What is an “ideal” client?
While the topics you bring to coaching can be broad, an ideal client needs to be in the place to start exploring and being open to change. You don’t have to have solid goals yet because coaching can be the place to dig into the specifics. Some good ways to check in with whether you might be ready for a coach are: you want to start a new habit or make a change but feel stuck and frustrated, you keep getting hung up on barriers, you feel like you are too busy to do things you want to do, you’re reading self-help books a lot and want to implement some of the things you are reading but aren’t sure how, you feel confused about how an aspect of life is aligned with your values, or you feel overwhelmed with stress and something needs to change.
Coaching can also be a place for support during times of transition (e.g. divorce, empty nesting, retirement), going through bereavement, and/or when you simply need an extra support person to turn to due to a new diagnosis or another life change.
I hope this list helps define health coaching a little more for you!