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What is a health and wellness coach and how does coaching work?

Updated: Feb 14, 2021

Coaching is an individualized wellness support practice that is 100% client and goal focused.

-Okay, so what does that really mean!?

Coaching is still a newer profession overall and has a slight buzzword feel to it, so I can understand the confusion. Add to it that there are about a million different types of coaches, from Mayo Clinic medical to gypsy-flower-astro-woo-woo. I personally think there is a place for all types of coaches, because clients will be experiencing different problems and they will be bringing all walks of lifestyles and background into the office. It's important that the client feels comfortable and seen by their chosen coach. Health coaches generally are specifically trained in guiding clients toward their healthy lifestyle visions.  Through various interviewing techniques and education in behavior change psychology, coaches help clients overcome problematic habits and achieve their wellness goals.  And although many coaches work from a similar system, the application can feel very different from person to person.

Seems simple, right? Yes and no. Some come to coaching imagining that just sitting down and sharing their struggles and goals with a wellness professional will magically bring them into alignment and solve their problems.  Believe me, it’s a common expectation!  But if it were that easy EVERYONE you know would be signing up for a session.  However, coaching is a process and the client is doing the majority of the work.  Undoing patterns is hard work!  And this is exactly why coaches exist. A coach is there as a support structure- a constant, to help push, guide and encourage the client when it gets tough. And believe me it will be. But is it so worth it.  Achieving goals or milestones for the goal averse, is worth it to the enth degree! Sometimes a client isn't quite ready for their goals. Some things take months to years of effort, but it doesn't make those ambitions any less significant. By co-creating a road map that makes sense, a coach can help the client see their goal and the steps it takes to get there.

So then what exactly are coaches doing in the session and after? Is a coaching session like therapy?

Sessions can feel similar to therapy in that the client typically comes for appointments once a week and also in the fact that the coach is learning a lot about the client and their life.  Coaching is holistic in nature, because wellness encompasses all aspects of life from diet and fitness to financial and relationships, so anything is up for discussion if it applies and the client wishes to talk about it.  Generally, coaches are listening much more than they are talking.  They guide and collaborate in the conversations, however the client is always the leader and can discuss or not discuss what they want.  Coaches help clients to strengthen their self awareness and mindfulness muscles. They encourage their clients to dial in to themselves, see what they really want out of life and then work to make that a reality. Although, coaches are not trained therapists and if an issue arises that is outside the scope of a coach, they may be referred out.  Coaching is a fantastic compliment to therapy, so being referred out doesn't necessarily mean that coaching needs to stop.  Coaching again is a process and should be looked at as a long-term commitment.  The length of the process could vary depending on the goal and how deep the issues surrounding it.

It's not uncommon to work with a coach for several months to upwards of a year or more! Learning habits take a lot of time and energy, so unlearning and creating new, healthier ones in their place takes time and consistency.  The mantra of coaching is definitely trust the process!  For myself as a coach I provide follow ups to sessions with a wrap up of what we discussed, the weekly focal points(that the client came up with), suggestions,  links, extra support materials like videos and articles- really anything that I think will be helpful and serve the client for that week and their overall goals.  I make sure to only send clients extra materials from academic and medical sources and I am available to answer questions outside of the session.

How do you know if you need a wellness coach? Who can benefit from it?

I guess it would be kind of a cop out to say everyone, yes? So, I won't say everyone. However, I do think that most everyone will go through or have already gone through things that could have been streamlined and expedited with the assistance of a trusted coaching professional. On the other hand, I am also a firm believer in learning from your journey. There is a great deal of knowledge to be learned from trial and error, but I digress.

I think if a client has had a hard time sticking to a program, has a very limited background in general health or a specific health dilemma that they need assistance on, coaching is a perfect fit. Nonetheless, coaching is a goals based process and sometimes we can have all the knowledge in the world and yet still not know where to begin, so it truly is for anyone.

To sum up, a coach is all about supporting the client and providing accountability.  They thrive to help others thrive.  Coaches are the clients biggest cheerleader and empathize and understand the process of the journey they will need to make. They take years to develop and learn the skills of wellness, just so they can pass it on in the hopes of helping others. My goal is always to help my clients feel like they are living a life that looks like the one they daydream about, because I know it’s possible! Through action, effort and growth, lasting changes are more than possible, but sometimes we just need a little help to get there.  That’s where a coach comes in. 

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