The main purpose of Health and Wellness Coaching is to help clients choose and cultivate a healthier lifestyle. This may include supporting others in wellness, holistic awareness, healthful living, and lifestyle changes. The Health and Wellness Coach provides individualized attention to clients to help them discover their goals and develop healthy habits.
A key element of health coaching is to listen to and understand how the client personally defines wellness, as that is really what is important to improve their life. Health and Wellness Coaches help clients to explore, express, and understand their feelings so they can make more informed decisions about their health and lifestyle behaviors.
Wellness coaching is a relatively new field, and it is difficult to find undergraduate programs in this specific area. Students interested in a health coaching career should begin by completing a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline such as nutrition, fitness, psychology, nursing, health science, exercise science, or counseling. Some colleges offer a minor in wellness coaching.
With this minor, you will take courses in psychology, nutrition, and fitness. You will learn the communication skills necessary to help clients identify their values, goals, obstacles, and challenges – and the motivational skills necessary to persuade them to take action. Topics of study include health coaching skills, stress management, worksite health promotion, and strategies for facilitating behavior change to foster well-being.
Even if students ultimately do not seek employment as a Health and Wellness Coach, developing coaching knowledge and skills enables them to utilize these techniques in their existing career, personal lives, or to help family and friends. Boston College has a team of student Health Coaches who are trained on basic health interventions and selected specialty topics for promoting wellness among their peers on campus.
After earning a degree, aspiring Health and Wellness Coaches acquire experience in the field through job positions, internships or volunteerism. A Health and Wellness Coach can be self-employed and work in private practice, or work for a healthcare or fitness organization. A growing number of progressive companies recognize the value of healthy lifestyles as a preventative measure to curb escalating health care costs, so they offer wellness coaching programs for employees.
Self-employed individuals may spend a significant amount of time seeking new clients. They might meet with current customers during evening or weekend hours. One of the best parts of starting your own health coach business is that you can do much of the mentoring from the comfort of your home office via telephone or Skype.
Typically a Health and Wellness Coach will work with clients in the areas of nutrition, exercise, weight control, stress management, sleep quality, disease management, and life balance. Some coaches focus on a specific area, but most take an integrated approach that focuses on the whole person. Many Health and Wellness Coaches are also nutritionists and personal trainers; but not all trainers and nutritionists are Health and Wellness Coaches.
Although healthy lifestyles can help prevent or treat disease, Health Coaches are not doctors and they don’t diagnose conditions or prescribe medications. However, many doctors are starting to partner with Health Coaches for their patients who are obese, diabetic, or need to change their behaviors in order to improve their health.
Employers may prefer to hire Health and Wellness Coaches who are certified by Wellcoaches, an 18-week training program endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine. The textbook used is the Coaching Psychology Manual by Margaret Moore. Additional criteria for certification includes an oral assessment, written exam, proof of clients, and submission of goals. Once certified, Health and Wellness Coaches are required to renew their certification every three years.