The field of health coaching is emerging in response to the rising cost of health care and the general poor health of the average American. However, unlike the established professions in health care such as occupational therapy, nursing, and nutrition and dietetics, there is no educational requirement or experience required in order for someone to market themselves as a health coach.
The training programs that do exist vary widely, in terms of educational requirements, accreditation, traditional versus non-traditional learning environments (most are on-line), and criteria for graduation or certification. As a result, those who work as health coaches come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide range of experience or education that may qualify them to support and advise people looking to make lifestyle changes.
Health coaches are not licensed, are not medical providers, and are not qualified to function in a similar capacity to a registered dietician, physician, or other health care specialists. However, some health coaches also have degrees and licenses in a medical specialty such as occupational therapy or nursing. These health coaches are qualified to offer a wider range of services due to their additional professional skills and clinical knowledge.
Health coaches can work in conjunction with medical professionals, helping clients to follow through on recommended lifestyle changes to improve their health. However, they are not qualified to diagnose or treat medical conditions, recommend medication, promote dietary supplements, or design eating plans. They must work within an appropriate scope of practice for their level of education.
Health coaches can play a valuable role in supporting lifestyle changes that improve your health. It is important to find a health coach who has the education, expertise, and experience that will meet your needs and goals.
As a health coach, my role is to support my clients in making the lifestyle changes they want to make in order to improve their health.
After researching the available health coach programs, I chose to pursue my education and certification through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) for several reasons:
- They are one of the only health coach training programs that have a pre-requisite of a college degree in a health profession in addition to requiring ongoing continuing education to maintain certification.
- They offer a science-based program that focuses on coaching through a combination of nutrition, exercise, and psychology. This complements my education in occupational therapy, which focused on rehabilitation and psychology.
- The ACE Health Coach Certification is given only with successful completion of an exam that is administered at an independent testing site.
- They are a non-profit organization focused on promoting better health through nutrition and exercise.
- They are an NCCA-accredited program. This is the independent accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence and also provides accreditation to programs for occupational therapists and other health care professionals.