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What is Health Coaching and How Can it Help Me?

Posted Jun 29 2012 6:52pm

Andrea Purcell

Health coaching is a holistic approach to lifestyle management and health, and relies heavily on personal goal setting, identifying current obstacles, as well as the use of developing personal and sustainable support systems. The relationship between the client and the health coach is a partnership focused on mutual accountability for both general and specific health outcomes outlined by the client.

Health coaching emerged in the 1990s, based on extensive research being done at that time, as a highly effective way for people to make personal and long-lasting changes in their health behaviors. Not surprisingly, it was found that an empowering, supportive, motivationally-based, and individualistic approach was much more effective in bringing about positive and lasting health changes than some of the more traditional less-communicative and top-down methods used previously.

More specifically, health coaching encourages clients to personally discuss their concerns about their conditions, what they would most like to work on changing and what challenges or obstacles they might face, and how to build a support system from people in their families and communities. The primary role of the health coach is not to teach, per se, but rather to council, support and advise the client with their specific issues to advance more healthy behaviors. The holistic approach looks at the concerns and goals of the client specifically within the context of the client’s overall life and work.

Some of the more common areas that health coaching has been particularly helpful for include helping clients manage stress and chronic disease, weight loss, an overall promotion of health, breaking or minimizing negative habits, finding work/life balance, self-care, empowerment, disease prevention, and in recovery from a wide range of surgeries. Health coaching, offered either by phone or in person, can be a great resource for people interested in making changes and in need of assistance in making practical decisions about how to proceed. The coach helps to break down the client’s goals into smaller and more measurable action steps and helps to monitor progress and offer support based in knowledge and expertise.

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