Health and Wellness Coaches offer a winning personal strategy
By Timothy Korte, RN
Millions of Americans try their hardest every day to escape their unhealthy lifestyles and get themselves onto a path of regular exercise, healthy weight, better diets and a genuine personal commitment to their physical and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, those best intentions too often end in self-defeat. The stresses of daily life, the struggle to break old habits and the time and energy it takes to transform their lifestyles becomes too much to sustain, especially on their own.
But there’s good news. That lonely, overwhelming quest for personal health no longer has to be that way. People seeking to get “un-stuck” from years of inactivity and poor lifestyle choices have a powerful new ally. They’re called certified health and wellness coaches, and they’re the saving soldiers of a quiet revolution in healthcare that’s been building steadily for the past decade.
Working one-on-one with a fast-rising number of clients, individual health and wellness coaches are filling a critical void. Primary care doctors and nurse practitioners remain the essential lead drivers of personal medical care, but they just don’t have the time to fully zero in on the many converging factors affecting a patient’s everyday health and life. Health and wellness coaches do.
Either in-person or online through camera-to-camera applications like Skype or Facetime, certified health and wellness coaches are specially trained to help clients clearly define what they want to accomplish, develop a time-driven plan of action and remove real and imagined barriers to success. Typically, over a three-month period of weekly 30- to 45-minute sessions, coaches guide patients to the point where they can self-coach and maintain their own programs.
The coach’s first step is helping a person actually envision themselves in a healthy, thriving future. “What does being healthy look like for you? What are some basic things you can do now to start moving in that direction?” It’s setting a compass for a mindset-altering adventure. The next step is establishing realistic, highly personalized goals. For one person, getting started on a fitness regimen might mean going to the gym for the first time or taking a brisk stroll around the neighborhood. For another, week one could be as basic as leaving their gym bag or walking shoes by the door as a motivating reminder.
And it’s not only about diet and exercise, though those certainly are important. Health and wellness coaches help navigate any and all issues affecting a patient’s life, both physical and emotional, from how to kick-start a walking program to spending more quality time with a partner or family. Using a positive, non-judgmental coaching approach, they allow their clients to reach their own conclusions on what works best for them.
While an increasing number of U.S. employers and insurers offer certified health and wellness coaching as a benefit choice, most plans do not include it in coverage, at least yet. The self-pay cost is similar to a personal fitness trainer, dietitian or therapist. Someone serious about engaging a coach might consider some self-budgeting strategies. The savings from quitting cigarettes, foregoing a wardrobe purchase or cutting back a little on travel and entertainment could quickly raise the funds necessary for three months of coaching – and the small sacrifice would be well worth it.
If you do decide to engage a health and wellness coach, make sure they are properly certified by such organizations as the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches, the National Board of Medical Examiners and the Center for Credentialing and Education. To locate a certified wellness coach near you, an online search will point to many resources. One helpful site is www.wellcoaches.com.
Timothy Korte, RN, a certified health and wellness coach, is a Wellness Program Manager with Berkshire Health Systems.