Updated: Jan 21
To be honest with you all, I stumbled into the functional medicine health coaching program I’m in currently… sort of by accident. I was looking at another health coaching program by Paul Chek, a world-renowned expert in the fields of corrective and high-performance exercise kinesiology, stress management and holistic wellness. But his program to me seemed incomplete - I wanted a program that was grounded in evidence-based research and truly addressed the *whole* person - mind, body and spirit. I have personally been on a path of physical, mental, and spiritual wellness for about the last 5 years through yoga, breathwork, bodywork, and consciousness studies. What I’ve been missing, though, is more of the concrete, physiological, and neurological evidence that exists in the world of Functional Medicine. A friend of mine who is familiar with Paul Chek suggested I check out Chris Kresser’s program and his Revolution Health podcast. From there, it was an easy choice for me: I saw that health coaches do what I was already doing with my 1:1 clients in bodywork and yoga…. In short, that they were specialized in helping people create lasting change, aligned with their own vision of their best health. But rather than just in their body, it helps people change in a more holistic way - AND is aligned with my values of functional, ancestral living. This approach considers so much more that western medicine doctors do as indications of health:
How you move
How and what you eat and the health of your gut
The quality of your sleep and light exposure
Your relationships with others and with yourself
Your environment and exposure to toxins
Kresser’s ADAPT health coach program impressed me. I chatted with mentors of the program and knew it was the right next step for my career and personal development almost instantly, and without a doubt. I had an intuitive knowing that this is an expansion for me - not a replacement of the work I’m already doing. I dived straight in with the vigor of a graduate student into this year-long program, from which I am certified in April 2022 and then apply for my national board certification.
So with that, let me give you a great bunch of detail here on what Health Coaches do, especially with the lens of functional medicine.
Four key reasons health coaches will play a crucial role in the future of medicine:
Chronic disease is the biggest healthcare challenge we face.
The primary driver of chronic disease is not genetic but environmental. About 85%of the risk for disease is environmental. Thus, changing our diet, lifestyle, and behavior is the most important step we can take to prevent and reverse disease.
Conventional medicine is not set up to deliver these interventions.
Doctors are not well trained in diet, lifestyle, and behavior modification, and even if they were, they have almost no time for that kind of guidance.
Health insurance is not healthcare.
Inescapable conclusions based on the above:
We need a new model of healthcare focused on preventing and reversing disease rather than just managing it.
Health coaches and nutritionists will play a crucial role in this new model because they are specifically trained to support people in making the interventions, diet, lifestyle, and behavior change that will have the biggest impact on preventing and reversing chronic disease.
Health Coaching Benefits to the Patient/Client:
Guides clients through the behavior change process.
Decreases overwhelm by breaking the treatment plan down into bite-sized actionable steps.
Helps clients to resolve ambivalence and discover their own motivation for change.
Boosts client confidence.
Acts as a partner to the client by working with them every step of the way.
Provides encouragement for client during times of difficulty.
Aids clients in adjusting habits to help them achieve their goals.
Increases client access to resources that can help them with their health care journey.
Identifies clients' own resources and support systems for optimal success.
Provides direction for clients if they feel stuck.
HEALTH COACHING 101
WHAT IS HEALTH COACHING?
Health coaches specialize in behavior change (as I like to call it, behavior change ninjas!). They support their clients in finding their own strategies and motivation for change, overcoming obstacles, and implementing protocols that have either been prescribed by a clinician or nutritionist/dietitian or that the client has chosen to implement on their own. Health Coaches offer a safe space to explore all your thoughts, ideas, and visions no matter their nature, a space that allows you to discover your own values and strengths that support you. Health coaches don’t operate on the “expert model” that’s so common in healthcare. They don’t lecture, prescribe, or simply dispense advice. Instead, they empower others to make the choice for health, including healthier behaviors, for themselves.
HOW CAN HEALTH COACHES HELP?
The chronic disease epidemic is spreading. Six out of 10 adults in the United States have a chronic disease, and four in 10 have two or more conditions. The majority of those chronic illnesses are caused by diet, lifestyle, and behavior—not genetics. Changing those lifestyle factors has the potential to prevent and reverse chronic disease on a large scale. With chronic illness, most care is self-care.
Even so, research shows us that change is difficult. In fact, only 6 percent of Americans engage in the top five health behaviors. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but that’s where health coaches come in.
Health coaches work directly with their clients to support to them as they embrace those healthy lifestyle strategies. If a practitioner prescribes a treatment protocol for a patient, health coaches can, through their support, improve the patient’s adherence to the treatment plan and goals. That’s not the only benefit health coaches bring practitioners. They act as a liaison between the clinician and the patient, often improving the doctor-patient relationship in the process. Through their support, health coaches also reduce practitioners’ stress levels and their time requirements for each patient—and that’s a big deal when the average doctor only has around 10 to 12 minutes to spend with each patient. Health coaches can also bring in more revenue for
clinicians by working collaboratively as part of their practice.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS HEALTH COACHING?
In short, it’s extremely effective. Health coaching has been shown to:
Improve weight loss and help people maintain a lower weight for longer
Lead to faster reduction of blood sugar levels in diabetic patients
Lower total cholesterol levels in people with coronary heart disease
Lessen feelings of depression and improve overall quality of life
Encourage people to stick with the changes they’ve made long term
HOW ARE HEALTH COACHES TRAINED?
Health coaching is a relatively new profession, and the practice continues to grow and mature. Because of that, there’s a wide variety in the quality and depth of the available health coach training programs out there.
But all that’s changing. Through a partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners, NBHWC (the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching) has developed rigorous standards for health coach education and training. Health coaches who have mastered a specific set of practical skills, logged at least 50 practice coaching sessions with clients, and passed a certifying exam can earn the NBC-HWC (National Board Certified-Health and Wellness Coach) certification.
The best-trained health coaches out there will be NBC-HWC certified or have attended schools that meet or exceed NBHWC standards, such as the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF PRACTICE OF A HEALTH COACH?
The role of a health coach is centered on supporting his or her clients’ efforts to grow and change. The health coach’s main focus is on helping others reach their self-developed health goals.
Help clients develop their own health goals and action steps based on treatment plans from practitioners
Encourage clients to mobilize their own insight, internal strengths, and external resources to make sustainable, healthy changes
Work with individuals or groups to facilitate the behavior change process
Act as accountability partners to help clients reach their health goals
Health coaches do not diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, or provide psychological therapeutic interventions. They may provide expert guidance in areas in which they hold active, nationally recognized credentials and may offer resources from nationally recognized authorities.
HOW DO HEALTH COACHES AND CLINICIANS COLLABORATE TO IMPROVE PATIENT OUTCOMES?
Alongside their work supporting clients, health coaches excel at supporting practitioners too. While clinicians focus on diagnosing, testing, and establishing treatment protocols, health coaches work to help people implement the behavior changes that clinicians prescribe. That’s why health coaches are an essential part of the collaborative practice model of healthcare. In collaborative healthcare, practitioners work with health coaches, nutritionists, and other allied providers to provide patients all of the support they need to make lasting changes. That leads to better patient outcomes and improved health—and greater satisfaction for clinicians.
So, if you are curious to see if this is a right fit for you, let’s schedule a 90 minute discovery call - committing to the time to learn more about my practice and receive some coaching too!