What is a Health Coach?

Coaches are common in sports and for career executives, but the field of Health and Wellness Coaching has less clarity.  The field of Health and Wellness Coaching (HWC) is rapidly growing and on the path to becoming an essential role in integrative healthcare, public health, and workplace wellness programs; so it’s important to understand the value HWCs can offer to improving the health and well-being of individuals and societies.

When I was first exploring training to become a certified Health and Wellness Coach over a decade ago, I had a limited view of my education and career options. Now, there are hundreds of training programs and thousands of HWCs worldwide…yet one of the biggest challenges of being a Health & Wellness Coach (HWC) is explaining what we do.

Leading HWC organizations around the globe offer various definitions to convey the unique capabilities and benefits of HWCs to improve the health and well-being of individuals, groups, and communities and the alignment in these definitions speaks to a global accord for what health coaching is.

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) Wellness Coaching Initiative (WCI) states:

“Health and Wellness Coaches work collaboratively with individuals and groups in a client-led process that supports the client in working towards self-determined health and wellness goals.  Coaches support and encourage clients to become masters of their own health, wellness, and overall well-being.”

The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) provides additional context for our work:

“Health & wellness coaches partner with clients looking to enhance their well-being through self-directed lasting changes, aligned with their values. In the course of their work, health & wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their ability to change, honoring the fact that each client is an expert on their own life while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental”

The UK & International Health Coaching Association’s (UKIHCA) definition states:

“Health and Wellness Coaching is a client-led, collaborative process that aims to promote self-management, self-empowerment and equip an individual to adapt positively to their internal and external environment to create a state of resilience through the pursuit of activities and a lifestyle that cultivates their whole-health continuum .”

While Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand (HCANZA) defines health coaching thus:

“Health and wellness coaching is a patient or client-centered approach that focuses on assisting them to elicit and clarify their values, gain insights into their lifestyle practices and develop a deeper understanding of possibilities and pathways to resolution of their challenges.

For the patient or client, this is a journey of self-discovery that ultimately leads to them setting goals, accepting a level of self- responsibility, and experiencing positive self-determination. It is this self-awareness and knowledge that inspires and motivates them to bridge the gap between intention and action.”

Health coaches work in different settings. Some work on healthcare teams alongside physicians and other allied health professionals as part of an integrative approach to client care. Other coaches work in digital health, community-based programs, or entrepreneurial capacities.

Health & wellness coaches train in behavior change theories, motivational strategies, and health education and promotion theories. They use these empowering skillsets to support clients in creating and sustaining change for improved health and well-being.

While these formal definitions are helpful, there is no one-size-fits-all in a coaching relationship, just as there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health.  Some HWCs are generalists, yet many will specialize in specific domains of well-being. Ultimately, HWCs focus on a client’s strengths and employ an empowering approach to co-create a realistic and appropriate path toward optimal well-being.  We ask behaviorally intelligent questions to inspire you to think of things in new ways and we provide personalized and culturally relevant guidance to realize your best self.

The concept of “bio-individuality” – meaning, that each individual is unique – is a core reason for why HWCs are so influential in increasing self-efficacy – which is, the belief in one’s ability to succeed. Often, the skills and insights gained within a client-coaching relationship are life-changing; so, working with a Health Wellness Coach has the potential to be a transformative experience that lasts well beyond the formal coaching engagement.

Still unsure of what a trained Health and Wellness Coach (HWC) can do for you?

Have you ever tried to pursue a health and wellness goal, but have trouble knowing where to start? Or have you been confused by all the conflicting health information from various sources and not sure how to put healthy lifestyle strategies into action in real life?  Are you struggling to find a greater sense of well-being and desire for personal growth, but can’t find the time to put your health and well-being first?

Health and Wellness Coaches are often that “magic” resource that bridges the gap between knowing and doing – we can help you get to the next level by co-creating your life journey toward positive outcomes in a supportive, non-judgmental, and empathetic way, with a high degree of effectiveness.

When we say “Health and Wellness Coach” – what comes to mind? What other questions do you have about the field of Health & Wellness Coaching?

Beth Romanski
Integrative Health & Wellness Coach, Professional Health Educator, Workplace Wellbeing Consultant, GWI WCI Leadership Team

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