Health Coaching for Lasting Beneficial Change
As a patient, Health Coaching can transform the experience and the outcome of any personalized integrative health care program.
Facilitating Lasting Changes with Health Coaching for Patient and Family
A well-developed collaboration between a skilled practitioner and a well-trained coach can support lasting behavioral change for every patient and have a profound positive impact on both their own and their family’s health and well-being.
How to find a Qualified Coach
Standards for health coaches are still evolving, and not all coaches receive the same degree of training. The differences between the many coaching programs may be considerable, yet nearly all graduates from these programs call themselves “health coaches.”
What’s the Role of a Health Coach?
Simply put, health coaching facilitates change. Coaches use motivational strategies, behavior change theory, and communication techniques to help patients create sustainable behavior changes that lead to better health.
A health coach bridges the gap between:
- What patients know they need to do to become healthy and
- The intrinsic motivation that patients need to make and sustain those changes
The Importance of a Health Coaching Care Plan
It all starts with a practitioner’s care plan, which guides the formulation of the patient’s wellness goals.
Together, patient and coach create a plan to work toward these goals, addressing any challenges or roadblocks that arise and that impede incorporation of the practitioner’s recommendations.
In a collaborative practice, the coach will provide feedback to the practitioner as the individual patient makes diet and lifestyle changes, simultaneously incorporating input and further guidance from the practitioner.
Valuable Insight into Plan Implementation
Generally speaking, health coaches working within their defined scope of practice do not get involved in making medical diagnoses or prescribing medical treatments.
However, depending on their training, they can often provide considerable insight and intelligence on how to adapt and implement dietary and exercise plans for people struggling with specific disorders.
Practically speaking, health coaches help medical practices become more ‘hands-on,’ by providing the ongoing day-to-day support and guidance for which most doctors have neither the time nor the training.
Coaching can free up a clinician’s time to do what he or she does best whilst providing ongoing contact with patients who are transitioning to healthier lifestyles.
Setting Professional Standards for Health Coaching
The field of health coaching is still in an early stage of its evolution. Currently, two professional organizations have emerged as global leaders in creating professional standards for coaches: the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching (ICHWC).
ICF is the world’s largest organization of professionally trained coaches. However, ICF’s oversight covers coaches from a range of disciplines and is not specific to the field of health coaching. Though health coaching does utilize some core principles, practices, and techniques used by coaches in other areas, it also has a unique knowledge base and skill set that will be needed for work in a clinical setting.
The ICHWC is focused solely on health and wellness coaching, having pioneered science-based training, research, and education of health coaches over the past two decades.
ICHWC developed a Scope of Practice and Code of Ethics for the field, outlining the parameters for what health coaches are trained to do—and also what they are not qualified to do. Since this scope of practice does not include diagnosis or treatment per se, many coaches apply their expertise in behavior change techniques to care plans developed by doctors, nurses or other qualified practitioners.
Recently, ICHWC launched the first-ever board-certifying exam for health coaches, which establishes a new credential, the National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC). The exam assesses coaches on competencies like health and wellness knowledge, communication techniques, the process of behavior change, and ethics.
This new “gold standard” national credential is something to look for when choosing a health coach. However, keep in mind that many good coaches have yet to earn this new credential, and there are several other criteria you can use to identify the right coach for you.
Evaluating a Coach’s Training
There are many coach training programs out there, and they vary significantly in length and thoroughness. So when you’re evaluating a potential coach, start by looking to see if ICHWC approves the program he or she attended. A list of approved programs can be found on the ICHWC website.
Program length and number of interactive training hours are important considerations, as these are often indicative of the amount of material covered and the time students spend developing their skills. The more rigorous coaching programs require coaches to undergo supervised practical skills assessments before earning their certification.
The rise of online programs is another factor. These can be as academically rigorous as on-site education and may have the bonus of diversity of graduates due to the accessibility and flexibility of online learning. Graduates of online programs are typically self-motivated and possess a strong ability to learn independently. They’re also likely to be comfortable with virtual coaching via Skype for example.— an increasingly important aspect of healthcare in our digital era.
Coach training may also align with certain specialties that could benefit your practice, such as Functional Medicine, nutrition, or mind-body medicine. The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA), developed in collaboration with the Institute for Functional Medicine and based on core functional medicine principles, is a leading example of this.
Some training programs also emphasize different settings for coaching, such as corporate wellness, a partnership with a physician’s office, or independent practice. These factors may indicate whether your practice’s needs match a candidate’s education and experience.
Learn more about FMCA
Mindd Health has facilitated the FMCA coaching program for a number of Health Coaches in Australia. Watch them share their experiences here:
Explore, more about coaching – or apply now by clicking on the links below:
- FMCA Information video
- Mindd-FMCA Application
- Dr Bland’s video series introduction to Functional Medicine
We look forward to supporting you to empower your friends, family and community to take charge of their health by riding the wave of Functional Medicine.
Adapted from an article by:
Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D., a practitioner, speaker, author, teacher, and entrepreneur. She holds a PhD in clinical psychology, specializing in positive psychology, cognitive behavior therapy, and mind-body medicine. Dr Scheinbaum was the first psychologist to become an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and is the founder of The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy.