How to Become a Health Coach

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If you’ve got a passion for helping people get healthy, becoming a health coach could be your ideal career move. A type of wellness professional, health coaches support their clients in reaching their health and wellness goals, which are self-determined or consistent with treatment plans prescribed by the client's health care provider.

Coaches typically support the client in developing strategies for making changes in their lifestyle and overall behavior, and assist clients with goal setting, accountability, and action steps.

Because obesity and weight issues are so common today, many health coaches work with clients to achieve weight loss. However, health coaches may also focus on specific health-associated goals (such as improvement in heart health or management of chronic pain), or aid their clients in controlling chronic health problems.

No matter what the client’s health needs, health coaches typically use a combination of behavioral training, counseling, skill-building, and motivation in their mentoring. In many cases, health coaches team up with physicians, nurses, and dietitians to guide the patients of these healthcare professionals in their efforts to incorporate recommended changes into their lifestyles.

As preventive healthcare becomes a greater priority for many people, we’re seeing a growing demand for health coaches. With their emphasis on making incremental but long-lasting changes to everyday behavior, health coaches could ultimately help clients to stave off major diseases and significantly lower their healthcare costs.

In fact, some experts suggest that health coaches stand at the forefront of innovation in healthcare. Read on to learn more about whether you should pursue a career in health coaching.

Is Health Coaching Right for You?

As with any form of coaching, health coaching calls for such qualities as patience, firmness, and exceptional skills in communication and organization. Health coaches also have a strong enthusiasm for health education, as well as a genuine love of supporting others in fulfilling their personal goals.

Since it’s important to model healthy behavior for clients, health coaches should hold their own lifestyles to certain standards by practicing balanced eating, achieving high levels of physical activity, and cultivating other habits known to positively impact health.

Training and Certification for Health Coaches

Receiving proper training is a key step in becoming a health coach. Although no accrediting agency for health coaching training programs exists today, there are many reputable programs at institutions across the country, such as the American Council on Exercise. These programs include a variety of training programs at colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

It's important to note that health and wellness coaches do not diagnose disease, provide treatments, or provide psychological interventions (unless they are licensed healthcare providers). Although some health coaches wish to provide nutritional advice, it is essential to find out what the relevant licensure laws are in your jurisdiction before enrolling in any program.

What to Expect From Your Training in Health Coaching

Training in health coaching covers a broad range of essential topics, such as coaching methods and coaching psychology, including theories on and techniques for behavior change.

Some programs provide general education in nutrition, exercise science, and health-related subjects like the prevention and management of chronic disease.

Additionally, your training should address the business aspect of running a health coaching practice. To that end, training in health coaching may offer guidance on marketing and other strategies for business development.

Specialties in Health Coaching

Many health coaches zero in on a specialty or niche. Some coaches specialize in issues like stress and aging, for instance, while others narrow their client base to those facing common health problems like diabetes and digestive disorders. As the health coaching field continues to grow, the demand for specialized coaches may greatly increase over time.

How to Start Your Health Coaching Practice

There are many ways to establish your health coaching business. Although many coaches work in private practice, health coaching has become more widely available at gyms, spas, wellness centers, and hospitals in recent years.

What’s more, physicians and medical practices have begun to partner with health coaches, often in the effort to improve the patient’s management or control of a chronic health condition.

In addition, health coaching presents a number of possibilities in terms of setup and delivery. You can work one-on-one with clients, or organize group sessions attended by clients with shared health goals. Similarly, health coaching may involve face-to-face interaction, or sessions carried out over the phone or via Skype.

As you begin to explore the field of health coaching, consider which approaches might best suit your strengths and preferences.

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