We are often asked the question of what makes health and wellness coaching different from other types of coaching.
The two more commonly known fields of coaching are Life Coaching and Executive Coaching. Life coaching as an area of coaching first appeared as the obvious avenue for improvement in life satisfaction and to obtain those elusive life goals. Executive coaching focus on performance in business and other specialty coaching areas are springing up – retirement coaching, career coaching, relationship coaching – all have a purpose and a place.
But back to coaching for health and wellness.
Health and wellness are made up of many different domains – physical wellness is what most people think of straight away, but mental wellness and emotional and spiritual wellness are very often areas of focus for any clients and equally as important as their physical health.
Although we follow and use many of the same principles and skills that are described by the International Coaching Federation (membership body for Life and Executive Coaches), there are other distinctions in the way we work. Let’s touch on a few.
DISTINCTION NUMBER ONE – WE WORK ON HABITS
Health and wellness coaches work with clients around habitual behaviours. Often these are mundane things that may not seem to have a lot of significance but when combined with other mundane behaviours, they may be slowly draining a person’s health, vitality and life satisfaction. The changes a person decides to make may well revolve around purely around what they do each day – over and over again.
DISTINCTION NUMBER TWO – GOALS BECOME ACTIONS
Leading on from this, health and wellness coaches will often then support a client in creating action goals rather than outcome goals. Having an end vision is important but equally important are the behaviours you need to do to get there. Clients focus on the steps they need to take – over and over again.
Although the ear of health and wellness is so very vast, we know that if we help a client begin to build a strong foundation, this will support them in the other changes they wish to make. And if these “foundation” habits aren’t working well, this will often prevent the other changes from happening. Foundation habits include areas like sleep, exercise, nutrition, and personal organisation! Improvements in these areas can underpin much bigger shifts.
DISTINCTION NUMBER THREE – PLAN AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Having a clear, detailed plan and having a system of accountability is very important in health and wellness coaching. The two things will influence the success of any behavior change program. The plan may be detailed down to the small steps to be taken each day and lead towards what the clients can build to in three months’ time. Clients may start with small steps and build slowly but having some way of being accountable will make the difference between success and failure. It happens along the way, not at the end.
DISTINCTION NUMBER FOUR – PROGRESS MAY BE SLOW
Health and wellness coaching is not about quick fixes. Building new lifestyle habits takes time and often determination. Which is why having a coach as a support is so very valuable. All we have to do is look at the number of people who have failed to improve their health alone to realise that this is an area in desperate need of a new approach.
DISTINCTION NUMBER FIVE – DIFFERENT SOLUTIONS FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE
One size does not fit all. No matter how much expert knowledge a health professional may have about how to reduce risk factors and improve health outcomes, unless they understand this fact, their good intentions will fall on fallow ground. People are unique and attempting to apply the same “prescription” to many is doomed to failure. We respond differently to outside expectations, we have different barriers to change, different value systems, fears, identities and needs. Coaching allows the individual to find a path to change that works for them.
DISTINCTION NUMBER SIX – BODY CENTRED APPROACH
Health and wellness coaching is as much about the body as the mind. We simply cannot work in this field unless we understand how to integrate the two elements. We need to understand that our body may not do what our mind tells us and reading physical signals as well as mental ones is essential.
Yes coaching is coaching. But who we coach and what we coach them towards can greatly effect the way we work.