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How to Work With a Health Coach

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 11, 2021

Health and wellness coaching is a growing health field. What does it mean and how can a health coach help you?

What Is a Health Coach?

Health coaching is part of lifestyle medicine. Much like a sports coach who helps you become active and improve your skills, health coaches help you become active in your own health and wellness. The focus is on helping you make lasting lifestyle changes that you identify you need in your life.

What Does a Health Coach Do?

Health coaching is a fairly new field. It is unregulated so lots of people call themselves health coaches without having any significant health training or experience. You’ll often find that a lot of doctors, personal trainers, nutritionists, counselors, and other licensed professionals are also health coaches. However, not all coaches have to be a healthcare provider.

While they can help you if you have a disease, a health and wellness coach, specifically, can’t diagnose or treat you and doesn't offer medical advice. They don’t tell you what’s wrong with your health and how to fix it. Instead, they ask questions to help you figure out what you want for your life and then support you through the changes.

A health coach’s job is to help you:

  • Find and build self-awareness. They help you find your weaknesses and strengths and help you overcome them. They also help you identify your health goals.
  • Take action steps. A coach helps you set up a plan, put it into action, and overcome obstacles.
  • Monitor and evaluate. Through follow-up and accountability, your coach makes sure the plan is working, the goal is achievable, and you’re staying on track.

Certified health coaches are often trained in general health, nutrition, exercise, and stress management. They can help you work towards goals like:

These techniques are especially helpful for chronic illnesses like:

Does Health Coaching Work?

Yes. Health coaching improves long-term diseases, prevents disease, and improves your quality of life.

One study showed that health coaching helped patients control high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower waist circumference, lose weight, and become more physically active. It also helped lower heart disease risk and the number of medications needed.

Another study showed that health coaching lowered hospital admissions of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and improved their health-related quality of life.

Lots of health coaching is done over the phone or through virtual online consultations. Studies show that these are just as effective as in-person coaching, and work well if you live in a rural area, too.

How to Find a Certified Health Coach

Coaching isn’t regulated like healthcare professions are, but some programs train and certify health coaches. These programs usually require coaches to have a certain amount of practice hours. It’s best to look for a certified health coach to make sure you’re working with someone who has the proper experience and education.

To find a certified health coach:

  • Check health coaching association directories
  • Check with your insurance company
  • Ask your doctor
  • Ask a local clinic or public health program

Questions to Ask a Potential Health Coach

Lots of health coaches offer free consultations. Take advantage of these short appointments to ask some questions. This can help you decide if their style and training are the right fit for you.

There are some things to ask and look for in your health coach, including.

  • Where they went to school
  • If they have any other health and wellness training
  • If they have any medical licenses or a medical background
  • If they have any experience or background with your health problems

Costs of a Health Coach

Health coach fees vary by the coach and the clinic. Lots of health insurance companies now cover health coaching because it costs less than medical care and the results are excellent. Check with your health insurance company to see if you have coverage.

Some reports suggest that you spend an average of nine hours with a health coach, which costs about $483. That’s a cost of about $40 per month. However, a coach might charge you more than that to make a profit.

Bottom Line

The health and wellness industry has lots of fads and trends, but health coaching is one area where the results are definite. Working with a health coach can help you improve your health and life.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: “Clinical Effectiveness of Lifestyle Health Coaching.”

Australian Journal of General Practice: “Health coaching as a lifestyle medicine process in primary care.”

British Journal of Health Psychology: “Does health coaching improve health‐related quality of life and reduce hospital admissions in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? A systematic review and meta‐analysis.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Health coaching is effective. Should you try it?

Integrative Medicine: “Board-certified Health Coaches? What Integrative Physicians Need to Know.”

Purdue University: “Questions and answers about health coaching.”

The American Journal of Managed Care: “Costs for a health coaching intervention for chronic care management.”

Trustees of Dartmouth College: “Health Coaching.” 

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