Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Promoting Well-Being through the Emerging Specialism of Health and Wellness Coaching


The healthcare needs of the population are becoming more complex. The incidence of long-term health conditions is rising (World Health Organization, 2018) and so too is the  number of individuals living with multimorbidity (i.e. more than one medical condition). The evolving health needs of the population raises important questions about how we can respond optimally to the challenges that face us.

This article examines the potential contribution of health and wellness coaching (HWC) to the healthcare needs referred to above. Specifically, it introduces HWC as a  distinct and rapidly emerging intervention, examines the status of its evidence base and offers some reflections on its increasing popularity as a service offering. The article also considers what is currently known about those delivering HWC and some critical next steps if this specialism is to realize its potential as a mainstream offering that can attract funding  from commissioning bodies.

From sickness to health: empowerment and partnership

It has been estimated that only approximately 20% of adults are currently thriving (Keyes, 2002; Kobau et al., 2010). Although this finding relates specifically to the population  of the USA, it would seem reasonable to anticipate a similar pattern in the UK and Australia. An additional challenge is that many individuals struggle to master the type of changes

that would enable improvement (Prochaska & Prochaska, 2016). Whilst a variety of conditions call for health-related behavioural changes, many prove unable to make or  sustain these and it would seem that the traditional methods of information-sharing and professional advice alongside other efforts to modify health-related behaviours have been  of limited effectiveness (Kelly & Barker, 2016). In a context where there is both a growing number of individuals with pressing health needs and significant difficulties in helping many of those individuals engage in appropriate lifestyle changes, there would seem to be a compelling case for alternatives to the ‘expert-led approach’ and for developing innovative  approaches that can assist with building and maintaining health and well-being.

What is health and wellness coaching?

HWC is a relatively new, but rapidly developing, discipline. Originating at the start of the 21st century, coach training programmes began to emerge in North America in 2002 and  grew rapidly so that as of 2016, in excess of 53 academic and private sector programmes had trained over 20,000 health care professionals (Kreisberg & Mara, 2017). However,  many coaches call themselves health and/or wellness coaches without any recognised training.

As with many emerging disciplines, debates concerning definition, scope and differentiation abound as HWC attempts to delineate its terrain at the levels of theory and  practice and claim its place alongside other, more established health care professions. For the purposes of this introductory article, however, we find it conducive to draw from the  definition provided by Wolever et al. (2013) which defines HWC as:  “a patient-centered approach wherein patients at least partially determine their goals, use self-discovery or active learning processes together with content education to work  toward their goals, and self-monitor behaviors to increase accountability, all within the context of an interpersonal relationship with a coach” (p. 52). HWC can be understood, then, as a client-centred, collaborative intervention whose primary aim is sustainable lifestyle change. Whilst coaches bring defined skills and  knowledge to the process, the goals selected are client-determined and relate specifically to health and wellness needs with the coach positioning the client explicitly as the expert on  their own life (National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching, 2020). As such, client accountability is central to the process.  In general terms, HWC seeks to combine the insights from psychological theories concerned with motivation and behaviour change in order to devise coaching interventions that are bespoke for the individual client (Jordan & Livingstone, 2013; Mettler et al., 2014).

Thus, a comprehensive training programme in HWC is likely to draw upon fields as broad and diverse as motivational interviewing; self-determination theory; transtheoretical  models of change; positive psychology; cognitive behavioural principles and methods; social cognition; theories of emotional intelligence; mindfulness and neuroscience (e.g. Dossey et al., 2014; Jordan, 2013; Moore et al., 2015).

The diversity of approaches and perspectives that currently underpin the training and practice of HWC raises important conceptual and technical questions about whether this is a  distinctive form of coaching working towards the development of its own original knowledge-base or an amalgamation of theories and models from other fields that are  being ‘packaged’ in ways that meet the needs of a particular segment of the coaching market. In order to begin to explore questions of this nature, it is necessary to examine  what is known about the effectiveness of HWC and its evidence base in relation to different areas of health need.

The current status of the evidence base for HWC

To date, the most comprehensive summary of the evidence base for HWC is that provided by Sforzo et al. (2017). Their compendium of the literature represents a landmark  study in the field in that it summarises and synthesises the available studies for the purposes of assisting practitioners and advancing scholarly activity1. It comprised of a  dataset of 219 articles with a further 104 peer-reviewed coaching-related articles added in 2019 (Sforzo et al., 2019). Drawing on Wolever et al.’s (2013) definition of health co (see above) together with the similar findings of Olsen (2014) the compendium reviewed the literature in relation to  six clinical categories: weight loss and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and cholesterol management. An additional category of ‘wellness’ covered multiple minority conditions.

Overall, the authors of the 2017 Compendium and the 2019 Addendum conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that HWC is an effective intervention – at  least in certain contexts and in relation to some specific, chronic, lifestyle-related diseases.  Moreover, the pattern of results suggests that HWC is potentially effective for improving numerous aspects of behavioural change associated with increased well-being. Nonetheless,  there is a need for caution. 1 To ensure that readers are provided with the most up to date information in the field, and given its importance to furthering understanding of the existing knowledge-base, we have based our  evaluation of HWC on the compendium rather than reviewing individual studies.

As noted by the authors, interpretation of the findings is confounded by a range of methodological limitations and complexities. Variations exist as follows:
• HWC was often delivered as an adjunctive intervention or as one of multiple
• The number of coaching sessions and length of coaching programmes
fluctuated as did the length of each session.
• The nature of the coaching intervention provided is also unclear – what was
delivered by whom?

• Some participants had co-morbid or multimorbid conditions creating  complications in understanding the precise impacts of any coaching intervention on individual clinical conditions.

What can be concluded from this research? The wide scope of the literature reviewed in the compendium makes an important contribution to the knowledge-base underpinning HWC. However, it should be noted that the focus of the majority of studies reviewed was on the reduction of medical risk factors that are prevalent in the population today. The research was conducted predominantly in healthcare settings and would have been influenced by cultural aspects and demographic diversity.  It is clear then, that the evidence base for HWC is still emerging. Nonetheless, both the compendium and addendum offer some cause for optimism that the use of HWC in the medical field has at the very least, the potential to be a valuable adjunctive intervention to more traditional interventions such as information sharing and psychoeducation. Moreover,  HWC can potentially enable other well-being outcomes as outlined above.

The literature reported improvements in the following areas:

• Psychosocial benefits including quality of life, reduced depressive symptoms and perceived stress levels (Clark et al., 2014).

• Increased motivational levels in wellness-related areas including life  satisfaction, energy level, healthy weight, mental/emotional fitness and managing health (Mettler et al., 2014 ).

• Importance, confidence and readiness to change significantly improved in all areas.

These studies support the contention that there is potential for HWC to be used  outside of the medical arena.

Who is delivering HWC? Identifying an emerging workforce

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, a systematic investigation of this emerging workforce is yet to take place and knowledge of those drawn to train as health and wellness coaches is currently sketchy. However, work being undertaken by one professional body – the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches (NCCHWC), based in the USA started to create standards around who might legitimately qualify for this title. Following a summit in 2010, it was decided that the industry itself would define how such coaches would work rather than rely on criteria decided by the medical profession (Wolever et al., 2016a).

In 2014, a job task analysis conducted via a validation survey of over 4,000 practicing HWCs identified the core knowledge and skills required to perform the role and in 2015 the training and education standards were published (Jordan et al., 2015). I In 2016 an agreement was signed between the NCCHWC and the Medical Board of Examiners. A further name change of the NCCHWC to the International Consortium for the  credentialing of Health and Wellness coaches (ICHWC) occurred in 2017, in the same year as national certification began. In 2019, applications opened for international training  organisations to apply for approval and to gain eligibility for their graduates to sit for Board Certification. (NB: ICHWC is now known as the National Board for Health and Wellness  Coaching (NBHWC), referred to earlier. At the time of writing, 24 programmes have final approval with another 57 being transitionally approved by the NBHWC.)

However, the question remains as to the background and credentials needed by health and wellness coaches to train and work in the field. For example, is a health and  wellness coach competent to work in this field without having previously completed a healthcare qualification? Wolever et al.’s (2013) definition, cited above, is clear that health  and wellness coaches are healthcare professionals who have previous training in the theory of behaviour change, motivational theories and communication skills that are used to support their clients in achieving sustained change in their health and well-being. Nonetheless, the anecdotal observation by the authors that HWC is gathering momentum as an industry-wide initiative suggests that it may be a choice of career for others for whom working in the health arena is a vocation.

Confusion also exists in relation to the terms ‘health coach’, ‘wellness coach’ and ‘health and wellness coach’, the interchangeability of these terms and who should be  permitted to use which title. This question has been debated by several authors. In an interview with Snyder (2013), the view was expressed that the difference was arbitrary as wellness coaches would end up working with people who have health issues. It has also been suggested that health coaches work with people with chronic health issues, whereas wellness coaches are more focused on prevention and maintaining current health status (Kreisberg, 2015). This view was supported by Huffman (2016) who stated that wellness coaches worked to guide and inspire healthy people who wished to maintain or advance their overall health and that their work was more likely to focus on smoking cessation, fitness, nutrition and body weight management than on managing chronic illness. Where the line is drawn in terms of the needs of clients, or whether a line should be drawn at all remains unclear.

What can be concluded with greater certainty at this stage is that those drawn to training in HWC have varied professional backgrounds. The professions and professional groups represented within the specialism are highly diverse and include nurses, fitness and allied health professionals, health and other practitioner psychologists, coaching practitioners, human resources personnel, counsellors, yoga teachers, chefs, nutritionists, dieticians, exercise physiologists and physicians, amongst others (Snyder, 2013; Wolever et al., 2016b).

Although much of the work in HWC originated in the USA, groups are coming together in other countries to create standards and routes for credentialing and for formally  recognising the contribution of HWC to the health of the population. The UK Health Coaches Association offers coach membership and is currently designing standards and criteria for certification purposes. The Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association has recently been formed to represent coaches in that part of the world. The Global Wellness Institute has recently established an initiative on wellness coaching to explore, report and recommend action in relation to HWC activities globally. There is, therefore, a coming together of the community in recognition of the need for a united voice and a shared understanding of HWC and its delivery.

Unanswered questions and next steps for HWC

The introduction to HWC presented in this article reinforces the need for further investigation of this rapidly growing field. The evidence base is growing and overall suggests  that HWC can have favourable outcomes in the field of chronic illness. However, there are still many confounding factors that can create a degree of confusion over the results  reported in the compendium. Additionally, HWC is being offered in a highly diverse range of contexts but most of the research to date has been performed in healthcare settings. There are currently limited studies reporting the impacts of HWC conducted in settings where individuals have goals that do not relate to overcoming chronic health conditions.

It has been noted that those delivering HWC come from varied professional backgrounds (Jordan & Livingstone, 2013) and the question of what they need to know to  work safely and effectively in this field is still to be determined. As coaching is used in diverse settings professionals may need to be trained to focus on targeting specific client needs. For example, a health psychologist may be trained specifically to coach cancer patients. A care worker specialising in elderly care may have in-depth knowledge of dementia and seek coach training to complement their existing knowledge and skill-set. The specialist knowledge base needed to work in HWC still needs to be determined and is a task for the future.

At the time of writing, the impact of behaviour change on health and well-being takes on an additional meaning in the context of COVID-19. HWC could have an important role to play in responding nationally and globally to the challenges posed by pandemics. Coping with state-imposed restrictions such as lock down and social distancing measures, anxiety  related to separation from and the feared loss of loved ones, and financial pressures associated with threats to local, national and global economies, create a climate of considerable uncertainty and stress for everyone. For those additionally managing long term conditions, maintaining health regimes in the context of self-isolation and changes to the accessibility of health care services creates an additional set of challenges. As understanding of COVID develops, HWC may have an important role to play in designing and  delivering interventions tailored to those having to manage complex health issues in the context of exceptional circumstances.

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How Coaches Can Work in NDIS

With the rapid growth of the Health and Wellness Coaching industry in 2020, and a spotlight on mental health and wellbeing after lockdown, there has been a surge in interest in coaching within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as a viable work option.

At a recent Ask the Experts Session for members of Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association (HCANZA),  NDSP Plan Manager and WCA graduate Neil Cumming talked about how NDIS works and what the opportunities are for health and wellness coaches.

If you’re interested in working in the NDIS in 2021 as a Health and Wellness Coach or as a Psychosocial Recovery Coach, this article will give you some pointers on how to get started.
NDIS Structure

The government-run National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) delivers the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to people with a disability. 
The goal of the scheme is to identify needs and provide support as early as possible, to help improve their outcomes later in life. 

Individuals qualify to receive a plan via an application and planning process which helps them to establish their NDIS plan and their goals which might include pursuing goals, becoming more independent, and/or being more active in the community and at work.

Support needs are based on the individual’s circumstances and disability, their specific needs and goals. The supports chosen for the plan must be both “reasonable” and “necessary” as defined by the NDIS.
Once a plan is established, the individual needs to work with their nominated plan manager (see below) to identify the supports they need and are eligible for, to monitor their budget and engage in reviews. 

NDIS plans and budget can be managed in one of three ways: 
1. NDIA-managed, 
2. Plan Managed, or 
3. Self-managed.

Coaching in the NDIS 

Do Coaches Need to be Registered Providers in the NDIS?
A starting point for working in NDIS is to consider registering as a provider.

Do coaches need to be register providers in the NDIS? The short answer is no, but there are differences in how you can work within the NDIS based on whether you register as a provider or not.

If you register as a provider, you have scope to work with clients whose plans are managed in any of the three ways noted above – so you have access to potentially more clients.

If you decide not to register, you will only be able to work with clients who are self-managed, or some who are plan-managed if the plan manager is a registered provider.

In January 2019, NDIS stated that over 250,000 Australians were receiving support under the NDIS, and this number has grown in 2020.

Areas a Coach Can Work in NDIS
Health and Wellness Coaches can work in Core Support, which includes assistance with daily life, transport and participating socially, economically and within the community.
They can also work in Capacity Building, which involves multiple areas including support coordination (organising the providers to support the individual), improved health and wellbeing, increased daily living and other areas.
As of July 2020, Psychosocial Recovery Coaches (aka Recovery Coaches) can provide support to people with a psychosocial disability. 

Psychosocial Recovery Coaching is a role that has been developed in consultation with people who have mental health issues, Mental Health Australia, and state and national governments. To work in this role, you need to have had either:
lived experience with mental health issues, or
Cert IV in Mental Health or Cert IV in Mental Health Peer support or similar, or
two years paid experience in supporting people with mental health challenges.

Psychosocial disability is a disability that can arise from a mental health issue, by improving their personal, social and emotional wellbeing while living with or recovering from a mental health condition. The individual defines ‘wellbeing’ in this case.

NDIS Coaching Pay Rates
Pay rates vary according to qualifications and role, and rates are by negotiation for all three categories of plan management.
At the time of writing, a Psychosocial Recovery Coach working in a Support Coordination role can earn $80.90 - $178.68 per hour depending on whether sessions are daytime, evening, weekends or public holidays.
A Health and Wellness Coach working in Improved Health and Wellbeing can earn upwards of $54.30 per hour, depending on whether they have additional qualifications that are recognised within the NDIS, and the level at which they are working.

Please visit the current NDIS pricing guide for more information.

What is it Like to Work with NDIS clients?
WCA Level 4 graduate Octavia Chabrier works in wellness empowerment within the NDIS. 
Octavia says “To be successful in a coaching role within the NDIS, the key is to build good rapport with Support Coordinators. I’m getting my name out there and am starting to get referrals. 
A Support Coordinator recently referred a client to me who wanted support but did not wish to work with a psychologist. The Support Coordinator described me as someone who could offer coaching, mindfulness and body work which represents a blend of my skills and qualifications. I love the fact that I can use the various tools in my toolbox to help people take simple, tangible steps toward their goals, according to each client’s unique needs.”

The NDIS offers an entry point for coaches to offer meaningful support to people in a variety of ways, and through a variety of entry points.
The first decision to make is whether to go through the provider registration process, and whether to consider further study in Cert IV Mental Health or related qualification.

As part of that, it is worth considering the type of work you might like to do and what you are qualified to do within the NDIS system, in terms of specific item numbers and pay rates.
From there, it is a matter of networking with various agencies in the system to become known, and to start working with clients.

This is a very abbreviated summary of a complex system.  

If you are interested in getting started as a coach within the NDIS and need support, we recommend reaching out to the NDIS for further information. 

NDIS, 2019. A quarter of a million Australians now benefitting from NDISNDIS website, accessed 25.11.2020.

NDIS website. Accessed 25.11.2020.

White, M. 2019. Working with the National Disability Insurance Scheme Framework. Wellness Coaching Australia website.

Behavioural Strategies to Support Mental Wellbeing

We are all aware of the strangeness of this time and also how different the experience of this pandemic has been from one individual to the next. So many factors will affect where we sit in our sense of wellbeing, but one thing that we all share is a feeling of uncertainty of what lies ahead. Now this is not news. We are being bombarded with media coverage of the situation and the adverse effects on various populations, and it is a time when we need to collectively come together and support each other, however, it is also a time when we need to dig deep into our own experience and understand the effect this uncertainty may be having on our mental and emotional health. It somehow feels wrong to dwell on our personal situation but the danger is that we don’t acknowledge and find coping strategies to deal with whatever challenge we are facing, no matter how small it may seem in the bigger scheme of things. Our clients need support in this time, but we too need to be monitoring our own mental state.

Many factors can result in stress and anxiety. But at this time there are some key changes that will affect many. To name a few:

• Finances
• Job loss
• Fear of sickness
• Separation from loved ones
• Isolation
• Loss of loved ones and inability to get closure
• Trip cancellation
• Unwillingness to make plans and have things to look forward to

Many of us are experiencing a sense of destabilisation in the world as we know it. So what is in our control right now? By following a step by step process perhaps we can regain a feeling of equilibrium during this difficult time. What people often fail to realise is that there are many physical behaviours we can adopt that will have a profound effect on mental stress. That is not to say that self reflection is not of value and changing our thinking will not help, but if we combine the two, then we get the biggest benefit. So here’s a step by step approach that used both our minds and our bodies:

STEP ONE – Take Stock
Become self-aware of what emotions you are experiencing but also what physical sensations are might be indicating that our body’s needs may not be being met. Where are you holding the stress?

STEP TWO. - Identify what is in your control
Work out what you can change and what you need to accept. Don’t waste time ruminating over things that are outside of your power of influence.

STEP THREE – Check in with how you are treating your body
What we eat or drink, how we move, rest, sleep, hydrate and breathe are all physical behaviours that can nurture vitality. If things are not right in any of these areas, our energy can be depleted. e.g. Do you need exercise or rest?
Check on each and see if there are any areas that you can change or improve. How will you do this?

STEP FOUR – Renew with nature
Get outside whenever you can. Use nature to improve your mood, help your sleep, release hormones and general performance in life. We have never needed nature more.

STEP SIX – Eliminate unhelpful behaviours
What habits are you developing that are not helpful? Is it something you are regularly thinking and telling yourself, or something you are doing to cope that is working against you? Identify and replace them.

STEP SEVEN – Love yourself
Engage in regular doses of self-compassion. Understand your emotions and how you deal with them. Be aware that sadness can wrongly be expressed with anger. Talk to your close friends and family. Discuss what’s going on for you. Follow physical pursuits that replenish you. Be your own wellness coach.

That life will unfold in the way it is meant to. Let go of the illusion of control. We never really had it!

And remember this statistic. A researcher in trauma (Donald Meichenbaum) said that an estimate of all the people who had experienced trauma, 30% of them suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and 70% of them experienced some form of personal growth! And the difference was the person’s belief about the event. If you believe it is possible to grow, you will.
Care for your client’s during this time, but also care for yourself.

Follow Your Flow

Flow state, this unique state of peak performance and life engagement, is an area of great interest to everyone from elite athletes, to high performing executives, to artists and academics. As we know, being in ‘the zone” of flow state is not just about maximising performance, or efficiency, but it’s the state where you feel your best, where your full absorption in the moment leaves no space for self-criticism, as we obtain a sense of one-ness with the task in the present moment.

But there are a lot of misperceptions about flow as well, including the perception that flow is Binary (i.e. you are either IN flow, or NOT in flow). However the research of Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Cardiologist, has been used to identify what’s now called The Flow Cycle, which has 4 stages. So it can be tremendously helpful to understand where you are in the cycle, as there are things you can do to move yourself through into flow, and help yourself find your way back in more smoothly the next time

As 2020 evolved into an incredibly challenging year of instability and uncertainty, I was hearing phrases like “at my edge”, “stretched beyond my means”, “lost my ground” and even the word “struggle” from my clients. I began to develop the framework of a group coaching course on Resilience as something to offer as a resource for this time. Through this research I interested in “flow hacking”, or identifying the gateways into the flow state and how to most efficiently facilitate a way in for myself as well as for my clients.

For someone who is currently feeling in “struggle” it can be hard to stomach the idea that you're on the verge on an optimal state of consciousness.

It would be helpful to learn then, that the first stage of Flow is called "Struggle". It's the time that you're at your edge, your brain is being stretched to the verge of what it knows and it feels like overload. Again, it is so important to know where you are in the flow cycle, because it’s essential not to give up completely at this stage, as tempting as it might be.

It is then time to move into the second stage of flow is called “Release”. It's where you let go of focusing on the problem, and allow your brain to shift elsewhere. You remove your attention from the tension of a “problem” into relaxation, restoring, ease and instead distract yourself by going for a walk, listening to music, etc. Flow lives on the cusp in between the flight/flight activated response and the relaxation response.

Once you’ve created space for the positive hormones it’s possible to return to the activity that was generating the challenge and this time slip straight into that sweet spot of Flow, where you’re now flying with that creative engagement, unrestricted by the limiting beliefs that your dear old rational brain overlays on all of your creative ideas.

This kind of unrestricted creative potential in the flow state results in a 500% increase in productivity. It results in a 700% increase in creativity. AND perhaps more important to our work as wellness coaches, is that we know that people in Flow state are happier and more intrinsically motivated.
Finally, just as we need to know how to get ourselves INTO Flow state, it’s equally important to know what to do to get ourselves OUT. The final stage of Flow is called “Recovery”. This is by far the easiest part of the Flow Cycle to overlook, given our culture’s general tendency to overlook rest and spaces of integration.

It’s essential to take this time to pause, to restore and recharge, given that Flow state is actually an incredibly taxing process on the brain and body, In doing so we are presenting the possibility of future burn out, and helping ensure that we are fully prepared to dive back into the stage of “Struggle” again when it arises.

2020 is irrefutably a masters course in challenge and struggle. Want to meet it as an opportunity to find your way into a deeper sense of engagement and motivation? Find out more about how to follow your Flow!

Written by Lucine Eusani, Mphil, MA Conflict Resolution & Wellness Coach, RYT

WCA Coach Trainer & Mentor

What is Hope and How Do We Get More Of It?

I often read articles and blogs that have direct relevance to our work as health and wellness coaches and I find it a really growth-promoting exercise to make notes on how a different model fits with our work with clients.  

The topic of “Hope” really struck me as highly topical at a time when many people -  if not feeling hopeless - are struggling with the challenges that lie ahead – be they financial, emotional (inability to visit loved ones), or physical (yes, many, many people have been touched by Covid-19)!

We have also seen some shocking scenes of anarchism – looting, rioting and terrible violence and of course this is what will appear on our screens each evening because BAD NEWS gets attention.  What the presenters often fail to show are the numerous acts of kindness and support that are given when times are at their toughest.  I was gratified to read that research actually  shows us that when disaster strikes, altruism is the rule – not selfishness!  High five to the human race!  Apparently kindness and cooperation win out. 

Now there’s a reason for hope!

So, in order to feel more hopeful, what do we have to do?  Well, what we can’t do is sit around and wish for things to be better.  We need to take action. And create a plan.  Sound familiar?  Eric Barker talks about “scientific” hope. 

So first let’s define it.  Here’s one definition. 
“ Hope is the sum of perceived capabilities to produce routes to desired goals, along with the perceived motivation to use those routes.”  (Snyder, 2000)


People with high hope tend to have a lot of performance-based goals that are moderately difficult to achieve.  Interesting. How does that fit with how we encourage our clients to go about their change journey?  Surely we want them to succeed.  Yes however, with the The research shows that with our goals, we want a 50% chance of success.  Now by goals here, we are not referring to behavioural goals. We are talking about outcome goals.  Human nature responds better to a mix of failure and success.  Hence, BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals). If we always succeed there is no sense of excitement and achievement; when we fail constantly we become disheartened. A mix is good!

Agency (this is where motivation comes in)

This the sense that we can start and continue along the journey towards the desired outcome.  But make sure that outcome is accurately described – somewhere.  Does this sound familiar?  A bit like creating a vision and having a strong sense of self-efficacy?  It did to me too.  And not surprisingly, using your strengths to work towards meaningful goals is essential. 

Having a Plan

We then need the “resourcefulness” to create plans and recover from setbacks.  Anticipating problems, breaking down the steps into a plan and being able to be flexible enough to come up with a new plan when you need one are all crucial skills.  Also visualisation.  We often talk about that with habit formation, but when we think about the journey we have to go on, it is better to imagine the middle section instead of the end. That’s where it can get tough and that’s where the power of our mind comes in.  The beginning is exciting and the end is a celebration. The middle is the tricky part. 

Also remember - If the plan fails,– it was the plan that was bad – not you.  Then create a new one!

How is HOPE different from OPTIMISM?   I know many of you will have been pondering that question.  There is a difference.  Optimism at times can be directionless.  Hope involves action.  And it involves us coming together to support each other and get through this time.
We will and come out the other side stronger and wiser. 

Stay safe and hopeful.  

Barker, E. (2020) Barking up the Wrong tree
Snyder, C.R. (2000) Handbook of Hope: Theory, Measures, and Applications.

Feeling Connected and Creating Clients in Business

When you work in an office as part of a team, you get a sense of connection each day as you interact with others and share ideas, jokes or brainstorm work problems.

When you start your own business, things can be a little bit different. 

Some people run their business from within another business such as a wellness clinic or studio, and so they experience that much-needed peer interaction. 

But what happens when you are flying solo, and operating from home?

We need a way to feel connected and supported in business so that we can find the motivation, energy, confidence and enthusiasm to persist.
On top of that, building professional and personal networks is a wonderful way to meet potential clients and referral partners who can send qualified referrals your way.

Let’s look at the various ways that solo business owners can build networks.

Joining a Health Professional Network

Allied Health professionals often have either formal or informal meetings, social events and/or online groups for the purpose of networking, referring and collaborating.
Their meetings are typically monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly.

By reaching out to the Allied Health professionals in your area and catching up for a cup of coffee or brief Zoom introduction, you can quickly find out which ones are ‘your kind of person’ and find out where and how these professionals network in your local area.

If you are a member of the Coaching Success Accelerator, you can find a downloadable, step-by-step process for reaching out to Allied Health Professionals. 

  • Action step: make a list of 10 practitioners in your local area, relevant to your niche or specialty area of coaching, and phone or email to book a time to chat.

Joining a Local Business Network

Your local Chamber of Commerce is an active business hub where you can meet and rub shoulders with decision makers in your community.

Their meetings are typically monthly.
Depending on where you live, your local Chamber may be quite active or not so much. 

In any case, it’s worth exploring the network to see who is involved, and to ask to attend a first meeting as a guest to see if it could be mutually beneficial.

Often, Chambers of Commerce have an active role in community projects, Council grants or industry-level initiatives that may be relevant to you (e.g. health related). 

  • Action step: Google search your local Chamber to enquire about meeting dates, opportunities to attend and what is typically discussed.

Joining a Professional Industry Association

Every reputable profession has an industry association that acts as a voice for its members.
Their meetings are typically monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly.

Being a member of a professional association can provide opportunities to vote on important issues, but also, it lets your clients know that you work in a serious, credible profession that has a formal self-regulation process and quality standards.

Being featured on the home page of an industry association is another way for people to find you online, positioned in a professional environment.

In Australia and New Zealand, the premiere industry body is Health Coaches of Australia and New Zealand Association.

  • Action step: Contact HCANZA to enquire about membership.

Joining a Social Networking Group 

LinkedIn is a globally-recognised platform for networking with other businesses and potential clients.

It has an advantage of being “more professional” than other social media channels, so may lend credibility and good business positioning.

You may make valuable connections for referral, collaboration or potential clients here.

There are industry-specific groups where you can network with peers in specific areas of health and wellbeing.

This is a great place to go if your niche group is a professional, entrepreneur and/or manager.

Facebook also offers support in the form of industry-specific groups, like the Students of Wellness Coaching Australia group.

Start Your Own Group 

An easy way to build professional alliances is to start your own group. 
This is a good tactic for you if you are outgoing, love people and enjoy networking (otherwise it may feel like too much work – and you’re better off joining someone else’s network/group).

In a professional sense, this could be a mastermind, a specific collaboration project, or simply a peer support group.

Or even better – you can start your own Facebook or LinkedIn group to attract potential clients.  This is a bigger job than the others, but if you are ready to build a tribe of like minded people and have the energy to show up every day, this is a good option.

There are a variety of training courses that can help you do it right.

  • Action step: Consider whether you’re ready to start your own group and find a training course to help you do it right. Or, if you are not ready, join a big group where your clients might be, and observe how it’s done.


It’s easy to feel isolated when you transition from a workplace to your own solo business.

However, I’ve listed FIVE options that you could start exploring to build professional and client networks for the purpose of feeling supported, brainstorming ideas and creating clients.
To get started, choose the one that feels like the best fit and make plans to join and explore what it’s like to be a member.

If that works well, schedule in the number of meetings or days you would like to attend (keep it small and simple!) and start getting into the hang of participating, contributing and collaborating.

When that’s working well, you may like to explore another option.

Now, it’s over to you.

What is your easiest and most obvious starting point?

Four Ways of Living Through this Quieter Time

I have purposely not referred to the term that is appearing in every publication, as information on the virus that is changing the world is abundant and to be honest, I think we all can feel a bit bombarded at times - reading about what is happening and what we should be doing.  Instead, in this short article I will focus on four areas that seem to be relevant for most people.  I realise that we are all having very different experiences of what I like to think of as a “quieter time”.  There is so much sadness and loss occurring which will take us time to recover from and emerge into the new normal - whatever that looks like.  As coaches, we like to look at the positive and reframe where we can, but it is not always possible and grief is inevitable and necessary.  However, let’s consider some of the phenomena, (skill sets, qualities) that have come to the forefront during this unusual period of history!

The need to adapt –adaptability has been a buzz word in the popular field of resilience for some time and never has the need to adapt to change been more essential. We have heard some wonderful stories of how people have reinvented their businesses into new and profitable concepts that have filled a need that has suddenly been created due to our new restrictions. 
The creativity that is involved here is inspiring and generative.  The demise of one thing has led to the birth of something new. In a similar vein, I wonder how many of us have thought of “re-inventing” some part of our own lives – be it personal or professional? The advantages of being adaptable are many, not least of which is the growth of new neural pathways as we are forced to do something in a different way!  Out of change comes courage.

Compassion – the world seems to be overflowing with it.  What an unexpected outcome!  Sadness breeds empathy and a desire to reach out and connect. There are many stories of how the public are honouring the healthcare workers, how people are supporting their elderly neighbours, how we are watching countries around the world handle their unique situation and our hearts are full of love for those people. It has been said that this disease knows no boundaries and our common humanity is bringing us together – in a way that religion (and politics) have never been able to do. The other side of compassion is self- compassion. And it is something that is also very important as we struggle to take on a new set of values, be they temporary. There is now no need to measure up to the next person. We recognise that it is the luck of the draw whether we have jobs, businesses or are left with a big gap in our previously busy and purposeful lives. It makes it easier to be kind to ourselves (and others) when we know that feeling guilty is inappropriate.  Our only choice is what to do with the new situation. But starting with self love and self care are great places to begin. Our conversations with clients are going to be inevitably drawn into discussions about how we can look after ourselves with love and kindness.

Slowing down – how interesting that many of us have a sense of the world turning more slowly on its axis. Even if our routine is the same and the pressures of work and study remain, there is an innate need to take each day easier, to calm the busyness, to stop and linger.  What’s with the butterflies? The butterfly is a symbol of hope and regeneration and there is something awe-inspiring to watch them fly past in their hundreds. Were they always there? Or have we just got time to appreciate what’s going on in nature.  

We are now spending more time with friends and family (even if over zoom) than ever before!!  We’re getting to know the minor details of each others’ lives, sharing the challenges and the small wins and connecting more than ever with both empathy and humour!  Yes, when did we ever have time to watch those videos that are sent our way? Now we are amazed at the cleverness of everyday folk who can put together something that is entertaining without taking anything away from the seriousness of the situation. How many times did you cry this week when you watched a tribute to Captain Tom or heard an artist share their talents by sending a message of love and hope through their song or film making skills?

Reflection – finally, there seems to be time to reflect. Being introspective and getting to the heart of how we are feeling, looking back to the way we have been living and daring to hope that things could be different is a daily occurrence for many. Establishing what is important to us - really? And wondering (metaphorically) whether those “butterflies” will still feature in our lives when this is all over. How can we hold on to the lessons learnt, continue to live with the quietness if only in our minds?

This is a very personal account of my experience in the last five weeks. There is also disappointment, sadness and worry ever present but it comes and goes. Our conversations with clients cannot help but change and go into a much deeper exploration of what they are feeling. What they are learning from this experience?  How they are growing, what they need to come through it intact. We can’t work with clients without, at times, sharing our experiences. This is the time to work together, to share our thoughts and feelings and to help each other stay well.  

Supporting and Upskilling Fitness Professionals during COVID-19

As I finished my last work out at my gym last Monday, I felt so very sad for all the gym owners, personal trainers, instructors and members who were about to lose, hopefully temporarily, their incomes, their interest and for many, their community. As a former club owner and fitness professional I could empathise and only imagine how hard that would be to face.  

How do we fill those gaps?  I can speak from the experience of transitioning from club owner and trainer to Health and Wellness Coach Trainer and Coach (HWC).  

There are challenges for many in today’s current crisis, but I want to focus on two.

Firstly, what do our clients need in this worrying time? We know they still need to continue their fitness program, or as close to it as they can. Technology allows a wonderful opportunity of sharing group workouts and helping people create a way of bringing regular exercise into their new routine, be it at home or outdoors (in a big spacious area). Exercise professionals can help here by providing information and support remotely. But will that be enough?

There will be many people struggling with finances with worry about parents, with fear of the future and this can lead quickly to poor eating, sleeping or movement patterns. Stress can be a big obstacle to healthy living. This is where a Health and Wellness Coach can step in. HWC’S are trained not only in safe guidelines around areas of healthy living but in understanding the need for regular connection and support at the right time, and being skilled in knowing how to have those in depth conversations. 

In the UK there is a move to train health professionals in “Better conversations”.  One website stated that “Better conversations enable people to thrive by feeling more motivated, confident and in control of managing their own health and care.” (https://www.betterconversation.co.uk.). But there is a gap between telling people how to get fit and pushing them to train harder and talking to them about more personal information. Health and Wellness Coaching fills this gap. 

The second need is for exercise professionals to supplement the income that has probably been lost with the closure of their club or gym. There has never been a better time to upskill and learn how to coach people through this enforced lock out while recognising that the complexity of COVID-19 is going to raise many questions and concerns. Sometimes they may just need to talk about these concerns and a trained ear can help them make decisions about actions they take to protect both their physical and mental health. This is where training in Health and Wellness Coaching is so very valuable and can help immediately with little investment in time and money for both the trainer and the client.  

What does Group Health and Wellness Coaching have to offer?

The growing amount of research on health and wellness coaching, delivered in a person to person setting suggests that coaching can be an effective intervention for many lifestyle related diseases. (Sforzo et al, 2017, 2019). But can health and wellness coaching delivered in a group offer a valuable contribution to the field and if so, what are its strengths and what are the challenges facilitators might face?

The literature on this method of delivery is much less advanced although several papers articulate a similarly positive effect and, in some ways, a format that can potentially benefit the participants in quite unique ways to the one on one conversation most commonly held.

In 2013, Armstrong et al reported on seven programs that used a group coaching approach throughout the United States – either by telephone or in person and using both professional and peer coaches. Results showed a wide range of positive outcomes including a sense of satisfaction and increased self-efficacy, some change in lifestyle behaviours, reduced pain and in one program, gains in facilitator’s listening and goal-setting skills.

In 2019, Yocum and Lawson reported on a workplace group health coaching initiative that involved 8 employees in leadership roles over a five-session program. Outcomes showed “positive change and growth” with reductions in stress, increased self-awareness of self-identity, values and desired goals. Again, facilitators reported similar personal gains.  

A case study followed an integrative group health coaching experience with four participants over four sessions and found that even in this short time period, group members experienced an improved sense of well-being.  (Schultz and Lawson, 2020.)

The above suggests that group health coaching can provide an alternative, lower cost option for client engagement with potentially additional benefits. Out of the reports cited the following strengths were noted for group interventions:

  • Participants experienced a sense of community and great sense of responsibility to follow through on commitments
  • Less isolation
  • Learning from others’ experiences
  • Enhanced creativity  and courage to try something new
  • Authentic communication and support
  • The opportunity to provide streamlined education or information which may be harder to deliver in a one on one setting
  • The use of tools such as mindfulness and other stress reduction strategies delivered in a group setting
  • Personal growth and understanding of facilitators
  • Sense of cohesion
Of course, strengths are also tempered by challenges and some of these included:

  • Logistics of bringing people together and managing their availability
  • Whether the group should be a closed group or open for people to “drop in” (which would work against any cohesion they might have experienced meeting with the same people each session).
  • The need for group guidelines, ideally created by the group members
  • Recognition that group work is not for everyone – some may not feel comfortable sharing and others may be disruptive. The facilitator has to be skilled in managing group dynamics.
What was of interest was that all members joined the program with the aim of improving “well-being” which can sometimes seem an elusive or vague outcome for many.
One program broke down the dimensions into health relationships, security, purpose, community and environment (Schultz and Lawson, 2020.)

In the work-based group, participants developed themes which were improving life/work balance, developing stress management strategies, increasing self-care, focus on healthy living, desire for accountability and lasting change and learning tools to pass on to other staff.

Information on the even group programs showed that the health issues that were targeted included general health and well-being, survivors of stroke, chronic pain, stress, and other chronic medical conditions. (Armstrong et al, 2019.)

Although there is a great need for further research into many various aspects of group coaching programs, these articles suggest that it is definitely a promising way of using the principles of coaching to support positive change.

Armstrong, C., Wolever, R. Q., Manning, L., Elam, R., Moore, M., Frates, E. P., Duskey, H., Anderson, C., Curtis, R. L., Masemer, S., & Lawson, K. (2013). Group Health Coaching: Strengths, Challenges, and Next Steps. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2(3), 95-102. https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2013.019

Schultz, C. S., Stuckey, C. M., & Lawson, K. (2019). Group health coaching for the underserved: a case report. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 13(1), 3-7. https://doi.org/10.1080/17521882.2019.1656658

Sforzo, G. A., Kaye, M. P., Todorova, I., Harenberg, S., Costello, K., Cobus-Kuo, L., Faber, A., Frates, E., & Moore, M. (2017). Compendium of the Health and Wellness Coaching Literature. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(6), 436-447. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827617708562

Sforzo, G. A., Kaye, M. P., Harenberg, S., Costello, K., Cobus-Kuo, L., Rauff, E., Edman, J. S., Frates, E., & Moore, M. (2019). Compendium of Health and Wellness Coaching: 2019 Addendum. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 155982761985048. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827619850489

Yocum, S., & Lawson, K. (2019). Health Coaching Case Report: Optimizing Employee Health and Wellbeing in Organizations. Journal of Values-Based Leadership. https://doi.org/10.22543/0733.122.1266

How to Build a Referral Network with Allied Health Practitioners

Working in an industry where quality and credibility are essential, Health and Wellness Coaches can gain a huge advantage when starting their businesses by networking with allied health practitioners. 

It takes time to build rapport and relationship in allied health, but these specific relationships will help you to build the most meaningful connections.
And if you start building your networks when you start your business, you will more easily build qualified referrals and fill your sales pipeline.

In my local coaching business, I networked extensively with GP’s and involved them in the development of my program approach, and within 2 years was being listed on GP care plans and referred clients on a regular basis.

Let’s take a step back and explore what all this means and involves, so you can start building your own relationships with allied health practitioners.

It Starts with Trust

Even when someone is ready, willing and able to get help with their health and wellbeing, they will generally only buy from someone they know, like and trust.
As a new business owner, you may not yet have that trust and connection, and that’s why a referral network is so important.

Further, consider how much more weight an Allied Health Practitioner’s referral has, compared with a referral from a friend or family member. 
People see medical and health professionals as trustworthy and reliable, and that sentiment transfers to you as a referral partner.

It therefore makes sense to start building Allied Health relationships early on in your business, so you can position your business as credible, professional and reputable.

Referrals Build Referrals

An easy way to get referrals from Allied Health practitioners is to meet and network with them and refer people you know to them. Even if you don’t have any clients, you can become their client, or refer people you know to certain practitioners.

Do this and they will get to know you and will more likely want to reciprocate.

Which local practitioners could you use the service of and refer people to?

Networks Build Collective Knowledge

When you maintain your professional networks and relationships, you enjoy an added benefit of keeping your finger on the pulse with developments in your area, and in the health industry more generally.

For example, I recall a Medicare Local meeting that I attended in my Shire. 

I had the chance to network with Allied Health professionals I knew, meet new practitioners in the area, learn about some of the common problems our sector was facing generally in terms of funding, information sharing gaps and key client issues (some of which I could help with) and, I was able to make a couple of useful contributions to this meeting.

I learned very quickly that these sorts of events were worth attending and helped me to support other practitioners while also building trust in my network and identifying new business opportunities.

In addition, as Allied Health practitioners came to know me better, they understood how I helped people, and could send clients to me that were the right kind of client for my niche with the exact problem I helped to solve.

As they say in marketing, I was getting pre-qualified client referrals who were suited to my program and to my way of working. 

The impact of this was to increase my sales conversion rate such that around 90 - 95% of all enquiries would buy from me.

How to Start Building Your Allied Health Network

Here are five steps to getting started with your Allied Health Network.
1. Get professional business cards printed with contact details and website/social media links (ideally LinkedIn)
2. Develop your professional identity along with a clear, simple elevator pitch-style overview of who you help, what you do, and how you deliver that (see the Coaching Success Accelerator, Unit 1, for a step-by-step process)
3. Visit www.healthdirect.gov.au/Australian-health-services to identify health services in your local area and make a list of those relevant to your services and niche.
4. Decide on how you will approach Allied Health professionals to make contact – for example, would you 
a. send a letter, 
b. phone to request an in person meeting, 
c. book an appointment as a client
d. attend an Allied Health event, or
e. Approach a chronic disease organisation?
5. Start scheduling appointments and reaching out to those professionals to introduce yourself and discuss a referral process that suits you both.  They may have something in place that they use, or you could develop something together.


Referrals are a great way to start and build your business. 

The credibility and respect attached to Allied Health referrals may be as good or greater than referrals from the general public and, they are likely to be qualified leads.

That means you can convert a higher percentage of enquiries to sales.

Further, you get to keep your finger on the local and industry pulse and help other practitioners, plus identify business opportunities.
What are you waiting for?

It’s time to follow a simple, five-step process to building your referral network so you can general a steady stream of enquiries to fill your programs and sales pipeline.

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