Dr. Erin Nitschke by Dr. Erin Nitschke
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The field of health coaching is dynamic and growing swiftly. Are you ready to be a part of it? Here are 10 reasons to make the leap and become a Certified Health Coach.

  1. Empower clients. The shifting and somewhat unpredictable landscape of healthcare requires consumers to develop self-advocacy skills. Healthcare is a complex and confusing system and navigating that system can be frustrating for consumers. Convoluted policies and practices can further disempower consumers. A health coach helps his or her clients develop greater health literacy skills and encourages clients to take a position of self-advocacy and become an active participant in their overall healthcare options.
  2. Inspire transformation in primary care. We are beginning to see a broader and more integrative approach to healthcare, which necessitates a greater focus on prevention rather than solely on the treatment of illnesses and disease. A health coach is an influential member of a client’s healthcare team. In fact, some research suggests that the use of health coaching may enhance a patient’s trust in other primary care providers (Thom et al., 2014).
  3. Facilitate positive and widespread change. The vision of the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching (ICHWC), formerly the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches, is “that competent health and wellness coaching will act as a powerful force to facilitate healthy lifestyle change and improved quality of life. We believe as people use coaching to build healthier habits, these positive changes will become synergistic and spread, causing many aspects of our world to transform.” Health coaches are uniquely positioned to change the face of preventative healthcare and assist in transforming individual lives and lifestyles using a collaborative coaching, versus directive, approach.
  4. Encourage holistic lifestyle change. The many demands of modern life create challenges our clients perceive as barriers to a healthier lifestyle. It’s not just a lack of physical activity that leads to chronic diseases and conditions. Clients also experience enormous amounts of stress, make poor nutritional choices and engage in behaviors that detract from their overall well-being. This is where a health coach’s scope of practice better facilitates the removal of those perceived barriers. This unique scope targets a client’s entire lifestyle, from physical activity levels to nutritional practices and, most importantly, the behavioral psychology driving the habits and choices clients make on a daily basis.
  5. Enjoy a dynamic career. Health coaching as a field and professional practice has already gained enormous momentum over the past several years. Margaret Moore, a.k.a. Coach Meg, founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation and co-founder, co-director of the Institute of Coaching, reminds us “the emerging reality today for your clients is a world of accelerating change—at a faster rate than ever before, and beyond our abilities to keep up. Rapid external change is exhausting, making it harder to get fit and healthy and stay there. The future for fitness professionals is becoming masterful coaches, skilled in facilitating change of behavior and mindset, helping people keep up with change and be healthier and happier while on the growth edge.” As awareness of hypokinetic chronic diseases increases (those brought on, at least in part, by insufficient movement and exercise), more people experience a desire to enhance their overall health and wellness by making positive changes to their existing lifestyle practices.
  6. Experience variety. A health coach has opportunities to work in a variety of settings such as fitness facilities, corporations, hospitals, medical clinics, wellness centers and naturopathic clinics, with registered dietitians or independently in private practice. A health coach can also work in small-group settings, one-on-one, face-to-face or via virtual coaching platforms.
  7. Become a master of client-centered habit change. The more we grow in our understanding of behavior change and human psychology, we know successful change comes from modifying lifestyle practices. A health coach works alongside a client to identify areas of potential change and uses motivational interviewing tactics to facilitate sustainable changes. A health coach is a client-centered professional who consciously collaborates with his or her clients to guide them toward positive lasting lifestyle changes. As the ICHWC asserts, “Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change.”
  8. Create momentum. Health coaches are important members of the allied healthcare continuum and they have the ability and opportunity to work in tandem with other allied healthcare professionals to influence change within an already complex system. In this respect, health coaches and other professionals can and should cross fertilize ideas and coordinate synergies to build greater momentum around a focus on prevention and not just management of chronic diseases.
  9. Health coaching works! When asked why someone would or should pursue a career as a certified health coach, Meg Root, an ACE Certified Health Coach, says, “As a seasoned fitness professional and personal trainer, the short answer is: ‘Because it works!’ My health coaching certification gave me a whole new array of evidence-based tools to address the critical behavioral aspects of lifestyle change. I now have the skills to guide productive conversations with my clients that shape new and positive behaviors over time. I feel less resistance and more buy in from my clients, leading to better results.”
  10. It’s rewarding. There’s no greater benefit to health coaching than to see your clients engage in powerful and meaningful change that supports healthy living, and to know you were an influential part of their journey.

Health coaching is not only a growing and respected field related to allied healthcare; it’s a powerful conduit for positive and healthy lifestyle change for clients. As Becky Gorman, a physician’s assistant and coach based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., wrote in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, “The future of health coaching to dramatically alter the health and well-being of our communities holds enormous promise” (Gorman, 2013).

References

Gorman, B. (2013). Health coaching: Holistically empowering change. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2, 3, 90-91.

Thom, D. et al. (2014). Does health coaching change patients’ trust in their primary care provider? Patient Education and Counseling, 96, 1, 135-138.