Is Health and Wellness Coaching more of an art or a science and does it really matter?

Is Health and Wellness Coaching more of an art or a science and does it really matter?

This question was raised recently and after reading an interesting discussion paper on the implications for education depending on the answer, is it an art or science. I thought it worthy of some consideration and comment on how this question might affect the method of educating the many potential wellness coaches we see in each course.  

So first let’s define an “art”.  

  1. It arise from the creative spirit
  2. It is unique
  3. The practitioner/artist uses their innate skills and abilities to perform the practice/art )with possibly some role of inspiration coming into it), and
  4. It is born from our philosophy about life and to a lesser extent from our cultural, family and physical environment

A science, however, is:

  1. Clearly defined by knowledge and statistics, 
  2. Uses the left brain and 
  3. Follows standard procedures while drawing from proven “facts” rather than intuition.  

Creativity is not a consideration of relevance in a scientific environment. Wellness coaching could mistakenly be described as a science if we consider our aim to help people improve their health, using established principles of physical activity and nutrition for example. Yet this is far from the way a good coach works. 

The most effective health and wellness coaches use their own style, trust their judgment and intuition and creativity plays a major role in their work.

So how does this affect the way we train future Health and Wellness coaches?  

Rather than teaching a strict model and way of working, we need to overlay evidence based research and coaching principles and skills with the development of critical and creative thinking. Right brain lateral thinking has a large part to play in a coaches’ work. We know that the best coaches often have a wide experience of life which may or may not be associated with chronological age. 

The skills of empathy, compassion, courage, warmth and even humour are vital for a coach to establish the strong relationship from which effective coaching is born. Wellness Coaching draws from both the arts and science but we must never forget the value of the unique creativity and intuition that each individual may bring to their practice.