For most of us, letting go of unhealthy habits and starting (and sticking with) new ones is challenging. Most people would be more successful if they had support and guidance from a skilled health professional when attempting to make these changes. But in our current health care system, medical providers are usually given little time during appointments to work with their patients on implementing health behavior changes.
In response to this unmet need, health coaching has emerged as a new profession. Some health coaches are licensed medical professionals with clinical experience educating clients on how to make changes to improve their health. Others are people who simply have a passion for helping others to improve their health - often because they have successfully overcome health issues themselves. Some are both. Regardless of background, an experienced health coach can be a valuable source of support and guidance if you want to reach and maintain a healthy weight, learn how to change your eating habits, increase your activity level, and/or improve your stress management skills.
However, it’s important to know that health coaching is currently a completely unregulated field. There is no standard exam, supervised internship period, or test of competency. And there is no state or national license or continuing education requirement (unlike for doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors, etc.). Because of this lack of regulation, essentially anyone can advertise themselves as a health coach. So it’s up to you to ask questions to find out about a potential health coach’s educational background and professional experience.
You can find out more information about health coaching here.
It used to be that only well-established businesses (and people with technical expertise) had professional-looking websites. But thanks to companies that design easy-to-use website templates (and some of the health coach training programs that provide a free template website for their students and graduates to use), anyone can now present their business in a way that makes them look established and experienced. This is great for those of us who aren’t tech savvy, but it means that you shouldn’t make assumptions about someone’s skills based purely on his or her website.
Before doing your research to find a health coach, I would recommend reading my last post:
Once you’ve done your research and are choosing between several potential health coaches, these are the 5 questions I recommend asking each of them (especially if the answer isn’t clearly stated on his or her website):
1. How much professional experience do you have? Health coaching itself is a fairly new profession, but the more experience a health coach has (whether in number of years of experience or number of clients they have worked with), the more skilled he or she will be in the coaching process.
In my opinion, offering advice to family and friends doesn’t count as professional experience, so ask about actual paying clients. Everyone needs a first paying client to officially start a business, but you may not want to be that first client when it comes to improving your health.
2. Do you have any clinical experience or medical education in addition to your training as a health coach? While it’s not necessary to have a medical background in order to be a skilled health coach, one who is also a licensed medical professional will be able to offer additional skills and expertise. This is especially important if any current or past medical issues (illnesses or injuries) are impacting your ability to reach your health goals. With 1 out of 2 Americans now managing at least one chronic health condition, I believe that health coaches who are also medical professionals are especially valuable.
There is a difference between providing treatment as a medical provider and empowering clients to make their own changes as a health coach. A quality health coaching training program will provide a medical provider with these coaching skills. In my opinion, the combination of medical education, clinical experience, and coaching skills makes for an ideal health coach.
3. These are the main goals that I want to achieve. What would your general approach be in helping me to reach them? Some health coaches were trained in a specific coaching method, which may or may not feel like a good fit for you. Others draw from several styles and can adapt their approach to make sure you feel supported. It is not a health coach’s job to tell you what to do or convince you to try a specific diet. A health coach should help you set realistic health goals and support you in achieving them. The focus should be on you and what will help you reach your goals.
4. Do you sell any products (supplements, foods, or other materials) as part of your coaching business? Unless he or she is a licensed medical professional, it is not within a health coach’s scope of practice to recommend or promote supplements or to design eating plans. This is especially important for clients who have diagnosed medical conditions. In my opinion, selling products while providing coaching services creates a conflict of interest. So if a potential coach sells health-related products in addition to their coaching services, I would be wary.
5. What sets you apart from other health coaches? This question may help you learn that you have a shared health issue or experience. It will also help you differentiate between a few coaches to see which of them you feel most connected to.
Ultimately, it’s important to trust your instinct when interviewing potential health coaches. Only you know what factors are important to you. But if a potential coach isn’t able to effectively answer your questions and/or you feel like you’re on the receiving end of an aggressive sales pitch, keep looking. It’s important to feel a connection with your health coach as this will make you feel more comfortable discussing the barriers you’re experiencing in reaching your goals.
Now that you know what to ask, would you like to interview me? Click here for my answers to these questions!