We speak a lot about the future opportunity that Wellness Coaching has to offer Australians. In September, I was given the opportunity of speaking at the Australian Integrative Medicine (AIM) Conference last Saturday and it was an opportunity to take a close look at how tangible this opportunity really is.
The theme of the conference was “Bridging the Gap” and the aim of the AIM Association is to recognize and bring together health practitioners who use varied disciplines and methodologies to treat their patients.
I have to admit I was expecting a fairly cool and possibly hostile reception – after all, wellness coaching is a new and unaccredited profession and the medical fraternity can have strong views on who is qualified to “help”. Instead, I met a lot of people who really did have open hearts and open minds.
The very strong message that came across was that a change in public health would come by taking a united approach. Rather than working in silos we could (and should) work as a team to help people in a variety of ways– whether it was to manage pain, to end their lives with dignity, to stay well or simply to enjoy what they had. The shift is in the belief that there has to be a better way of doing these things than the old, cold professional approach that was more about control and delivering “prescriptions”. Instead, creating rapport, showing empathy and focusing on the relationship as much as the outcomes were as important as the techniques and advice we were trained to give.
These are key principles that underpin wellness coaching and I felt very at home and thoroughly enjoyed my presentation to a room full of people who perhaps knew little about what we did but took only minutes to “get it”.
I spent the limited time I had there listening to people referring to naturopathy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine and many other “alternative” therapies (known as CAM – Complementary Alternative Medicine) as being legitimate treatment methods.
Far from downplaying the need for evidenced based research and the need for continued growth in this area, the focus was on not so much fixing illness, but perhaps preventing it. As Dr Tim Sharp put it, “If we could cure the population of sickness in the world, would that be enough?” I think not. Yes we need to cure illness, but simultaneously we need to promote wellbeing. Once again, there was recognition that the physical and mental dimensions are inextricably linked.
So how do we do this? First, we start with an open heart.
To lay aside our professional status and expert knowledge that sometimes defines us takes courage. Accepting that we don’t really have all the answers take humility. I have worked with a lot of people now in wellness coaching workshops and love my work so much as the training predominantly attracts people with open hearts and open minds. And who are humble. I talk to a lot of very clever people. Clever in different ways. But the ones who embrace the coaching model have without exception a degree of emotional intelligence.
Now our training is accredited with ESSA, we will be seeing more AEPs (Accredited Exercise Physiologists). I look forward to working with this group of people and to helping them help others make positive changes in their lifestyle by using a collaborative, coaching approach. And when I am back in Melbourne in October, I also look forward to having other attendees of the conference in our workshop who wishes to learn more about what we do. The ball is rolling and we momentum growing and together we are building a tribe. I love to think that Wellness Coaching is part of the movement that will change the world by breaking down our barriers and helping us support each other through caring, better communication and above all, relationship.
If we can all open our hearts, open our minds and open our ears and take a similar approach to AIMA we would make a bigger difference in healthcare.
If we can listen to the ideas of others and accept that there is much to learn, we would gain power in using the strength of many.
If we could empower our clients to take responsibility for change by working with them as coaches, instead of doling out advice, we would truly help them.
If I could provide my trainees with a T shirt it would say, “I don’t have all the answers but I have some really good questions.”
And above all, we can learn to listen to the answers.