What does a health coach actually do? [6 min read]

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My fundamental role as a coach is to partner with you on your way to making changes for the better. My areas of expertise include behaviour change and deep listening, as well as the science around the foundations of long-term health. Together, we will refine what you want your healthier future to look like and break it down into a realistic plan. We will also find and harness the motivation needed to get there. Troubleshooting along the way is a valuable part of the process.

I believe in you. I will help you to identify what works well for you, where your strengths are, and how this knowledge can be applied to the changes you want to make. I have faith in the capacity of every client to feel better. Change is not easy though, which is why working with skilled support can be so helpful.

Some of the positive outcomes of working with a health coach include greater success with implementing healthy habits, weight management, improved markers relating to heart health, and significant mental health benefits. Beyond these specific health-related results, there is also the wider scope of well-being and quality of life. Perhaps one of your goals may be to take up a hobby, to be fully able to relax on a family holiday, or to write a book. Your coaching will focus on what needs to happen to get you there.

What to expect as a coaching client

The most vital thing you bring to coaching is your expertise in your own life. Each step you choose will be tailored to you. While I may have seen other clients with what may appear superficially to be an identical goal or challenge, you are the only one living in your specific circumstances.

You decide the focus (with my assistance) for each individual session. Depending on your experience with coaching, you may be surprised to discover how granular your goals can get! For example, if you want to work on improving your sleep, what do you want to look at first? Examples could include implementing a more regular sleep schedule; adjustments to your bedtime routine; investigating how food is impacting sleep; coping with shift work, or exploring the effects of screen time. This is merely scratching the surface of the potential areas of exploration that could emerge from the overall topic of sleep. Often you may discover through the coaching conversation that the real issue is in fact rooted elsewhere. For instance, perhaps you notice that you sleep better when you are active. In this case, your next step towards improving your sleep may be related to physical movement.

It is important not to underestimate the importance of small steps. While the examples given above may feel insignificant, changes on this scale are vital to meaningful and sustainable forward movement. They can also add up pretty quickly to feeling significantly different.

The kinds of questions we might explore include what your desired change might look like, what is important about it, any challenges you might face in implementing it, and how you might plan for them should they arise. If you are feeling stuck, we can brainstorm ideas for possible directions to consider. In some situations, it may be appropriate for me to offer a suggestion, or a relevant resource. Only if you actively want this kind of input though, and certainly with no offence taken if you don’t find them useful.

Something else you bring to our coaching is a willingness to explore with me. To undertake some experiments that have real potential to help to amplify the things in your life that you feel most positive about. Together we will co-create a plan to move you closer to your desired goals, and help you implement it.

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How coaching differs from other health professions.

Firstly, it is important to note that it is outside my scope as a health coach to diagnose, treat or prescribe. I am also not a therapist or counsellor. If adding further support seems appropriate – coaching through the process of identifying what kind of provision you want, and seeking out the relevant professionals, can be very helpful.

It is also not my role as a health coach to tell you what to do, or how to do it. Many professionals, particularly in the health arena, are positioned as the expert from whom we expect to receive instructions, perhaps advice, and often prescriptions of one form or another. This can be appropriate in some situations, for instance a physician has a wealth of expertise that the patient generally does not. However, the physician’s knowledge certainly does not mean that the patient has nothing to contribute, as they remain the one and only expert on themselves. As a coach, my area of expertise is behaviour change. I will support you in maximising your success in that realm, which certainly has the potential to increase the positive impact of any recommendations other members of your healthcare team may make.

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Finally, I am neither judge nor arbiter of your successes, though I will certainly help you to recognise and celebrate them. Your goals are not a yardstick by which your success or failure is measured, but rather a series of experiments that will provide valuable information regardless of the outcome. I like to describe the situation, rather than ‘win-lose’, as ‘win-learn’. Either you achieve your stated aim and move on to identifying your next step to build on that progress, or you experience a different outcome from which you can learn – with my support – and adjust as required. Which is also progress!

How helpful can a coach really be if they aren’t giving advice?

It will not be a surprise to you that I have great faith in the power of the coaching approach. If you know anyone who has worked with a well-qualified health and wellness coach, ask them about their experience. Beyond anecdotal evidence, there is also a growing body of scientific literature to support the effectiveness of coaching in a wide variety of situations. Below are some highlights for anyone not inclined to fall fully down the rabbit hole of research.

The existing research demonstrates that health and wellness coaching can include the following benefits:

  • Successful behaviour change related to nutrition and exercise
  • Reductions in body weight, BMI, blood pressure and LDL cholesterol
  • Improved cardiovascular disease risk profile
  • Improved blood sugar management
  • Improved psychological outcomes in patients with various conditions (e.g. reductions in stress and anxiety, improved general mental health and quality of life)
  • Improved adherence to medication and treatment protocols provided by medical professionals

The underpinning of the coaching approach is empowerment of the client. It is designed to support you in implementing real changes in your life, while at the same time developing skills. These can enable you to approach any kind of change with greater confidence and self-knowledge. In essence, change is not easy – or we would all be doing the healthier things we would like to be doing already. Support founded in solidly researched methodology can be a tremendous help.

If you would like to explore the possibility of coaching with me, please reach out to book a free 30-minute chat.

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