Something has been lost in the ever-increasing trend toward medical specialization. Specialists have the luxury of focusing all their attention on one area of care, allowing them to provide more exceptional treatment. Unfortunately, focus on one specific part of the body or a single illness, and it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of whole-life health.
That’s where health coaches come in.
Think of it as a symphony conductor. The conductor makes sure the sound is perfect by bringing in individual instruments exactly when and where they are needed. In the same vein, a health coach considers nutrition, lifestyle, emotional, and mental factors as interacting forces affecting the client’s overall health and wellbeing. These pros also act as “cheerleaders”, encouraging and motivating their clients to achieve health goals and navigate through illness or health setbacks.
Traditionally, that has all been up to the patient. Most people, though, find it difficult (if not impossible) to eat right, sleep well, keep stress in check, and live healthy … much less do all of that in the face of a new diagnosis like heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. A health coach can clearly and calmly consider all the dietary, exercise, and psychological aspects of that situation when a patient might be overwhelmed and at their lowest.
That doesn’t mean that you have to be sick to enlist a health coach. Whatever your objective—losing weight, sleeping more soundly, having more energy, being happier, or all of the above—a health coach can help you create a roadmap to the goals, and inspire you along the journey.
In any case, these professionals tend to focus on universal health factors, areas that have an impact on any disease, condition, or general health. These include:
- Nutrition. A health coach can help you craft a healthier diet small step by small step and offer encouragement week by week. Of course, he or she can connect you with a dietitian, where more comprehensive changes are necessary in response to serious disease such as diabetes or hypertension.
- Sleep. The problem with sleep dysfunction is that it can lead the sufferer to be foggy headed and less capable of finding a solution. A health coach can guide you through a sleep study, suggest natural aids and improvements to sleep hygiene, and recommend a specialist if needed.
- Stress. One of the big benefits of having a health coach is knowing someone is in your corner, no matter what health concern you have. A health coach can recommend strategies for reducing negative stress in your life, and assist you in implementing those.
- Fitness. Although not a personal trainer, a health coach has tools to assist clients in developing a common-sense fitness plan that includes everyday activities, and enjoyable exercise.
- Time management. In our busy modern world, it can be a boon to have someone help you schedule healthcare around your life.
The takeaway is that a health coach can assist you with disease- or condition-specific issues, as well as general health factors. That assistance can help you live healthier, prevent diseases, and lead a fuller life. Of course, the trick is to find a health coach that suits you and your needs.
The Right Coach … for You
Just as the choice of primary care provide is a personal one, the health coach that specifically suits you is a matter of both professional approach and personal connection. Here are the key considerations in sifting through candidates.
- Trust. The health coach-client relationship is intimate. He or she will likely have access to personal medical information and some of your innermost thoughts. You have to connect with any candidate, in a real, deep, and substantial way. You also have to be able to trust that person with sensitive information. If you don’t, even a highly experienced health coach won’t serve you as well as they might.
- Communication. Discuss how—and how often—you want to communicate. A health coach typically stays in close contact with clients, including by email, phone call, or video chats. Unfortunately, some clients take advantage. Ask any potential health coach how they moderate client communication, and determine if that approach matches your communication style and needs.
- Team Orientation. A health coach is rarely an MD. A wide and deep list of professional contacts is a key asset for any health coach. Ask about the network of other professionals the person can access.
- Organization. Juggling health concerns, and staying on top of diet and lifestyle habits is no small task. It’s smart to inquire what tools and systems—digital and otherwise—the health coach uses to organize each client’s health and wellness.
- Philosophy. Are you the type of person to turn to holistic options first? Are you open to hypnotherapy and energy healers? If so, hiring a health coach steeped in traditional Western medical approaches will probably not be a good fit. Find a pro who shares your healthcare perspective.
Many health coaches started their careers in related positions, such as a dietitian or a physical therapist. Previous experience can help them manage client cases with a more enlightened perspective.
However, prior healthcare experience is not essential to becoming a health coach. There are many credential and training programs, but one of the most prestigious is provided through National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC). Their website also includes a directory of board certified health coaches.
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