An objective of this type of coaching is for the client to be well-informed of the status of his/her health and well-being. This process begins with identifying what the client understands as communicated through his/her primary or specialized practitioners. The coach then assists the client in finding and utilizing health and wellness resources, as well as accurately evaluating and integrating multiple sources of health information. These sources may include health care provider input, health & wellness assessments (including self-assessments), health risk assessments, basic biometrics, and appropriate referrals.
The coach also supports the client in choosing goals and action steps carefully, since small, gradual successes predict long-term engagement. The coach recognizes the client’s readiness to change and supports the client in designing appropriate action steps that move the client toward self-determined goals. The coach and client track progress over time, which is strongly linked to long-term success, until clients learn to track their own behavior, problem-solve, and observe the impact of their actions. When reviewing progress, the coach does not focus on the outcome, but rather emphasizes the client’s effort and what is learned during both successes and setbacks without judgement.
By definition, health and wellness coaches are not subject matter experts in health or disease; they do not diagnose or prescribe, unless a coach has credentials in another profession that allows expert advice to be given. However, it is important for coaches to have a solid working familiarity of current evidence-based recommendations provided by public health groups such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health.Relevant guidelines and recommendations fall in the areas of health promotion, disease prevention, and lifestyle medicine.
The coach should be able to identify risk factors for chronic disease, commonly used biometric measures, and current lifestyle recommendations for optimizing health. An important focus for the coach is to recognize potential imminent danger and medical red flags, and to know when and how to refer to another health care professional.
Healthy lifestyle ideals, as in most areas of health care, are continually evolving. Recommendations change frequently for everything from interpretation of biometric markers (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure) to evidence-based suggestions in lifestyle areas like nutrition and physical activity. Moreover, guidelines vary by organization. The coach stays abreast of trends, controversies, and evolutions in the lifestyle fields, since these will impact client choices and the resources they need.
Since the coaching relationship is client-centered, the coach’s focus is determining what the client already knows, needs, and wishes to learn about. The coach then supports the client in obtaining credible health and wellness information. General knowledge about healthy living is required for the coach to facilitate the various topics that arise in a coaching conversation.
The CDC has a robust, evidence-based website that offers useful information for the coach and the client. Another valuable resource is Healthy People 2020, a program of nationwide health-promotion and disease-prevention goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Finally, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine provides peer-reviewed resources that are also part of the coaching tools.