The more I talk to people about health and wellness coaching, I come across a few common beliefs about Health and Wellness Coaches and I think it's time to clear up some of the questions and the confusion! So, without further ado...
A Professional Health and Wellness Coach won't:
1) Judge you: A good friend shared that she was initially hesitant about entering into a coaching relationship because she was afraid that her coach might judge her. Many coaches will tell you that they first got into coaching as a profession because of their own journey to better health and a subsequent "calling" to help others navigate their own paths to wellness. While Professional Health and Wellness coaches try to "walk the talk", we are on our own journeys too. Some of us are starting on our journeys, some have been on it for awhile. But no matter where we are, we appreciate each individual's own journey and appreciate that our guideposts are all different. People are at different stages of their readiness to change. A coach will appreciate and honor what stage you're at, and help you move the needle in your own way, guided by your values and desires. We do not force change upon anyone. If you're ready, great! But if you're not quite there, that's great too! It's all about your journey and your unique progress cannot be compared to anyone else's. Coaches hold their clients in utmost positive regard and respect their autonomy. We take your lead! We approach all interactions with you with full intention to listen mindfully and in a non-judgmental manner. We also cultivate this type of mindfulness within our clients too, by helping you to treat yourself with kindness and compassion during times of challenge and change.
2) Tell you what to do: Professional health and wellness coaches know that you are an expert on your life and they work with you in a way that acknowledges and leverages what matters most to you and what works best for you. They honor your expertise and your strengths and evoke from within you your chosen priorities and goals. Your autonomy is our driving force to co-create a plan that has your "personal brand" all over it! Can we give expert recommendations? Sure, we're happy to provide it where we have expertise, if you ask them for it specifically. But, we won't offer it if we don't have the expertise, or in an unsolicited way, and usually not before brainstorming with you what other resources you might access. Certainly, if we see that something you are embarking on might be harmful to your health, we will respectfully share what we see after asking your permission. The end game of health and wellness coaching is your self-efficacy. The coaching relationship is all about a supportive alliance to build your capacity for growth and change, at your own pace.
3) Try to sell you stuff: The Professional Health and Wellness Coach's code of ethics specifies that any potential conflicts of interest are to be disclosed during the coaching agreement, so while you are still deciding whether to work together. You should never be caught off guard by a health and wellness coach offering you to sell you products or services outside of the coaching relationship (essential oils, supplements, etc.). Ideally, this type of selling would not even enter the coaching relationship, but most importantly, you get to decide whether it does. If a coaching agreement doesn't spell it out in black and white, ask your coach before you embark on your journey together!
4) Give you a "program" to follow: A Professional Health and Wellness Coach will not give you a plan or program to follow, but they can help you follow a plan that your healthcare provider has given you. But coaches will not tell you what eating plan to follow, what exercises to do, or how to structure your path toward wellness. Why you might ask? Well, for one, it doesn't work! How many times have well-meaning people told us “what we need to do”? And how often does that work? Right- it doesn't work very well at all! Each of us has within us the power to bring forth ideas, strengths and values that help us to recognize and create our own, ideal plans. And sometimes, they are simple experiments to see if what might work. If it doesn't work, we move on to the next experiment. It's called "trial and correction" and that's what a Professional Health and Wellness Coach will work with you to create- your experiments and your plan, on your terms.
5) Tell you there's a "magic bullet": There is no magic bullet in health and wellness. Let me repeat that - THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET IN HEALTH AND WELLNESS! Period. There is no one "superfood" to eat; no one exercise regimen to follow; no supplement that will "burn fat"; no "ONE food" you MUST give up for your health to improve. Health and wellness is created through support, intention and consistency over the long-haul.
6) Let you think that they've got it all figured out: We may have made some progress with our health and wellness, but that certainly doesn't mean we know exactly what we should do all the time, and it most definitely doesn't mean that we necessarily know what you need to do. But, coaching is a process of exploration, co-creation and experimentation to find out what works best for you so that you can achieve your ideal version of health and wellness.
Until now, there has not been a consistent standard for professional training and experience in the health and wellness coaching profession, so there are many varieties of health or wellness coach out there. This trend is changing quickly with the newly-formed International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching (ICHWC) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and their credentialing of Professional Health and Wellness Coaches through National Board Certification. When looking for a Health and Wellness Coach, look for a NBC-HWC, or a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Since the credentialing process is very new, you can also find well-qualified health and wellness coaches who have received certification from an approved transition program for ICHWC and are working toward their NBC-HWC credential.