What is Health Coaching?
Health coaches specialize in behavior change. As a health coach, I support my clients in finding their own strategies and motivation for change, overcoming obstacles, and implementing protocols that have either been prescribed by a clinician or nutritionist/dietitian or that the client has chosen to implement on their own.
Health coaches don’t operate on the “expert model” that’s so common in healthcare. They don’t prescribe or dispense advice. Instead, as a health coach, I empower others to make the choice for health, including healthier behaviors, for themselves.
How Can Health Coaches Help?
The chronic disease epidemic is spreading. Six out of 10 adults in the United States have a chronic disease, and four in 10 have two or more conditions. The majority of those chronic illnesses are caused by diet, lifestyle, and behavior—not genetics. Changing those lifestyle factors has the potential to prevent and reverse chronic disease on a large scale. With chronic illness, most care is self-care.
Even so, research shows us that change is difficult. In fact, only 6 percent of Americans engage in the top five health behaviors. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but that’s where health coaches come in.
As a health coach, I work directly with my clients to support them as they embrace those healthy lifestyle strategies. If a practitioner prescribes a treatment protocol for a patient, I can, along with the practitioner's support, improve the patient’s adherence to the treatment plan and goals.
How Effective is Health Coaching?
In short, it’s extremely effective. Health coaching has been shown to:
• Improve weight loss and help people maintain a lower weight for longer
• Lead to faster reduction of blood sugar levels in diabetic patients
• Lower total cholesterol levels in people with coronary heart disease
• Lessen feelings of depression and improve overall quality of life
• Encourage people to stick with the changes they’ve made long term
The Scope of Practice of a Health Coach
My role as a health coach is centered on supporting my clients’ efforts to grow and change. My main focus is on helping others reach their self-developed health goals.
• Help clients develop their own health goals and action steps
• Encourage clients to make sustainable, healthy changes
• Work with clients to facilitate the behavior change process
• Act as accountability partners to help clients reach their health goals
Health coaches do not diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, or provide psychological therapeutic interventions. They may provide expert guidance in areas in which they hold active, nationally recognized credentials and may offer resources from nationally recognized authorities.
How Health Coaches and Clinicians Collaborate to Improve Patient Outcomes
Health coaches excel at supporting practitioners too. While clinicians focus on diagnosing, testing, and establishing treatment protocols, as a health coach, I work to help people implement the behavior changes that clinicians prescribe.
That’s why health coaches are an essential part of the collaborative practice model of healthcare. In collaborative healthcare, practitioners work with health coaches, nutritionists, and other allied providers to provide patients all of the support they need to make lasting changes. That leads to better patient outcomes and improved health—and greater satisfaction for clinicians.