Health coaches promote the practice of self-care so that people can reach their greatest potential. They apply the science of self-leadership, human caring, and flourishing to help people avoid toxic stress, freeing them to cultivate wisdom and resilience and flourish as human beings.
Characteristics needed. Health coaches must be able to focus on the root cause of patient suffering, which typically are daily actions people take (or don’t take) that determine their quality of life and health status. For example, a person who’s overweight and developing type 2 diabetes likely is eating foods that are self-defeating. The health coach knows that eating cleanly with little to no processed foods or sugar may entirely reverse the disease process and stop unnecessary suffering.
Rewards. Autonomy—including designing a practice and structuring time with patients—is rewarding. Creativity—designing health services based on health problems that are not getting solved elsewhere in a creative, accessible, and effective way.
Challenges. Health coaches sometimes struggle to help people understand the value of health coaching. In addition, being self-employed can get lonely and the workflow can be uneven.
Education requirements. Although no specific requirements exist, having a doctorate in nursing reassures clients that the coach can read and interpret evidence. Obtaining a certificate in coaching from a reputable coaching program will help ensure nurses get the skills they need to promote intentional, sustained lifestyle change in adults.
Professional associations. The International Nurse Coach Association, Institute of Coaching (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School), and the International Coaching Federation are all valuable associations for health coaches to join. A helpful journal is The Journal of Positive Psychology.
Bottom line. “I am so privileged to get to learn how others construct their lives and what their priorities are—it is wildly creative.”
Eileen O’Grady is a certified wellness coach who uses an evidence-based approach to help people reverse or entirely prevent disease. She’s an expert on intentional change in adults, emphasizing the importance of extreme self-care and how to identify and remedy a life that’s out of balance. O’Grady is the founder of the School of Wellness, which is devoted to cultivating wisdom and self-leadership.