Feel stuck, but not sure what to do about it? A coach might be able to help you, but what type of coach should you look for? koach.net’s FIT FOR PURPOSE blog series explores the main types of coaching out there to help you choose the best coach for your needs.

What is a health coach?

Where all coaches are interested in helping clients shift limiting patterns in order to achieve their goals, health coaches do so by focusing specifically on health and wellness. Their work is not on principle divergent from the work provided by doctors and other healthcare professionals, but the approach of a health coach is often quite different from the dominant approach of the medical industry and national healthcare systems.

While the modern allopathic treatment approach meets the patient at their time of need and aims to alleviate the patient’s symptoms, a health coach is more interested in finding the root cause of the condition – more often than not lifestyle-related – and working with that to help the client achieve rejuvenated health. At a time in history when more reported illnesses are chronic rather than acute, health coaches empower their clients to take a proactive approach to their health, relying on their own resources, rather than those of overburdened healthcare systems, to be well.

A health coach usually asks the client to take a much broader view of her life than just the symptoms of her condition, to examine how she lives and why she lives this way. Aspects of a health coaching program could include exercise, nutrition, sleep, relationships, work-life balance, stress-management, energy-management, mental health and emotional health. If that sounds like it overlaps with life coaching you would be right, but while the central topic of a life coaching program might be almost anything, a health coaching topic is, perhaps obviously, specifically related to health. Such topics might include weight loss, burnout, chronic illness and chronic pain.

What should I look for when choosing a health coach?

Credentials

Though a doctor can become a health coach, a health coach is not by definition a medical doctor. In fact, doctors and health coaches often work in very different ways. Many health coaches have alternative medical qualifications (eg. nutritionist, homeopath, acupuncturist) or are a qualified medical doctor, but from a coaching perspective it is important to have a recognized coaching accreditation through a credible body such as the International Coach Federation (ICF). ICF-credentialed coaches practice at one of three levels – Associate, Professional or Master – with rigorous training and professional requirements, such as hours coached, required to become certified at each level.

Niche

Health coaching is itself a niche area of coaching focus, but if you have specific health concerns it might be valuable to find a specialist coach in your area of need. Though many health coaches take a holistic approach to their work, you might want to find a coach who specializes in, for example, nutrition, work-life balance, obesity or burnout.

Fit

Working with your health is one of the most personal journeys you can embark on with a coach, so it’s important that you connect well and have a high potential for trust and support. It’s standard practice for coaches to offer a free introductory session for you and the coach to determine whether you would be a good fit. This is especially true of health and wellness where the coach needs to be sure that he has the necessary skills, which may be specialized, to add value in your topic

Access

Virtual coaching has opened clients to a world of options, allowing you to bypass location as a limitation in choosing a coach. You can now work with a coach on the other side of the world who you feel is the best fit for the work you want to do. Virtual coaching also offers far greater flexibility in scheduling coaching sessions, usually at a reduced cost. However, if you prefer to connect with a coach in the same room, search internet coaching platforms like koach.net for coaches in your area.

A health coach is not…

A doctor

As described above, a doctor has trained in professional medicine and is qualified to prescribe pharmaceuticals. A health coach is not allowed to prescribe this type of medication unless she is also a doctor. Though some doctors take a preventative approach to health, recommending lifestyle-oriented solutions to chronic illness these are the exception or, at the very least, the depth to which many doctors go in recommending this course of action is relatively shallow. However, this view is a foundation of health coaching.

A healer

One of the primary aims of health coaching is for the client to reclaim their autonomy and take responsibility for their own health. In this sense a health coach is not a medicine woman who magically cures her client of his maladies. Instead, she is a facilitator, guiding and collaborating with her client as he discovers within himself the path to better health.