What is Health and Wellness Coaching

Health and Wellness Coaching is a relatively new, but rapidly developing discipline. Several definitions have been put forward but it can be understood that Health and Wellness Coaching is a client-centred, collaborative intervention whose primary aim is to support others in sustainable lifestyle change. The goals are selected by the client who is positioned as the expert in his/her own life, with the coach bringing defined skills and knowledge to support the process of change.

The major difference between a Health and Wellness Coach and other health professionals is the facilitative, as opposed to prescriptive approach and the handing over of responsibility to the client.  There are many aspects that are derived from other helping professions such as the unconditional positive regard that the coach will always display and the honouring of the client’s autonomy and unique values.

Where is it used?

Health and wellness coaches can be found in many settings. At times the emphasis is on prevention and maintaining of current health status, in which case the term “wellness coach” may be used.  It could be assumed that their focus would be on areas such as smoking cessation, fitness, nutrition and body weight management and their clients be relatively “healthy” to begin with.  Health and Wellness Coaches can also be found working alone or alongside other health professionals with clients who have chronic illness and the term “health coach” may appear more appropriate.  However, it is now generally accepted that a line cannot be drawn in terms of needs of client and the difference is arbitrary, as crossover is inevitable.  Health and Wellness Coaching can be found in medical centres, in schools, corporate settings, fitness facilities, hospitals and many in private practice.

Where Do Health And Wellness Coaching Come From?

It can be conclusively stated that Health and Wellness Coaches come from many varied and diverse backgrounds. The professions represented include:

  • nurses, 
  • exercise physiologists, and fitness professionals
  • allied health professionals, 
  • nutritionists and dieticians,
  • corporate health and human resource personnel, 
  • community health and social workers, 
  • health and safety officers,
  • counsellors and coaching practitioners,  
  • meditation and yoga teachers, 
  • chefs and the list goes on!  

Moreover, many are drawn to the profession as a vocation and are willing to gain the health literacy and knowledge that is essential to practice in this role. It should also be noted that whereas it is a profession in its own right, it can also be used in existing professions as an additional treatment with lifestyle and functional medicine recognising the potential benefits of a coaching approach.  Many times, a coach will wear two hats and switch them as appropriate.

What Is The Science Behind Health And Wellness Coaching

In general Health and Wellness Coaching combines insights from psychological theories concerned with motivation and behaviour changes and draws from a range of theories from applied psychology and health disciplines.  A comprehensive training program may draw from the fields such as motivational interviewing, self-determination theory, positive psychology, social cognition, theories of emotional intelligence; mindfulness and neuroscience.

Does It Work?

To date the research can mainly found in health settings around chronic illness and the most comprehensive summary of the evidence base for Health and Wellness Coaching is provided by Sforzo et al (2017, 2019) who reviewed all available studies and found that there was sufficient evidence to support the claim that Health and Wellness Coaching can be an effective intervention to some specific chronic lifestyle-related diseases and potentially effective for improving various aspects of behavioural change associated with increased wellbeing.

Sforzo et al (2017, 2019) Compendium of the health  and wellness coaching literature.  American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Learn more about the benefits of Health and Wellness Coaching with this great interview with our Founder, Fiona Cosgrove.