Health coaches are change agents. Together with the rest of a collaborative care team, they support and empower their clients as they make positive diet and lifestyle changes. Keep reading to find out more about what health coaches do—and the methods they use to do it.
What Health Coaches Do
We all know we should be making healthy choices like exercising, getting plenty of rest, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and drinking moderately—or not at all. Despite that, only 6 percent of Americans adhere to those five healthy behaviors.
The problem isn’t a lack of information; it’s that most people lack the strategy and support necessary to change a habit, even if they know they need to do it for their health.
Health coaches are highly trained professionals who draw on their skills to support their clients as they work through those changes. They build strong, supportive partnerships that empower their clients to take the lead in their own progress. Health coaches facilitate change, allowing their client to become the expert on their own body, mind, and circumstances.
Health coaches are trained to listen, observe, and customize their approach based on their client’s needs. Coaches look for cues like nonverbal communication or changes in the client’s emotions or energy to tune in to their client’s experience.
Health Coaching Strategies
Health coaches have a number of strategies they use to support their clients and help them achieve lasting change. They direct the flow of the conversation by asking certain questions at certain times and guide the session through certain phases like agenda setting, exploration, planning, and closing. In other words, coaches facilitate the coaching session.
Coaches use several broad categories of tools and techniques, such as:
- Motivational interviewing, which helps people to discover their own motivation and strategies for change
- Positive psychology, which teaches people to build on what’s working, rather than fixing what’s broken
- Understanding the stages of change, which allows health coaches to offer the appropriate type of support at each stage of change
- Habit formation and reversal, which supports people to create new, healthy habits and reverse unhealthy ones
- Accountability and goal setting, which helps people to stay on track and achieve their goals
No other health professional has the unique skill set of a health coach, and that’s why health coaches fill a critical gap in our healthcare system.
What It Takes to Be a Health Coach
Health coaches act as guides for their clients. They’re there to empower, not lecture. That means letting go of personal agenda and learning to listen from a neutral, nonjudgmental place. And, as with any discipline, mastering the skills and strategies of a health coach takes practice.
That practice starts with health coach training. This is a hands-on profession, and it takes time to master the art of health coaching. Training programs that offer practice coaching opportunities and chances to talk with other coaches about their process offer the best environment for building the skills necessary to become a great health coach.