What’s the difference between a life coach and a health or wellness coach?

There is a core difference between a life coach and a health coach. Life coaches may come from any field of education or experience, and they often help people make broader changes in their lives (relationships, parenting, organization, careers, etc.) rather than zoning in on health-related goals. The certified health or wellness coach has a background specifically in a health-related field (fitness, nutrition, medicine, psychology, etc.). Many have worked in the health field for several years before adding coaching to their services. For most, wellness coaching is an extension of the work that they have already been doing. Health coaches also believe that wellness is the foundation of all growth and development. So, no matter why someone hires a coach, we begin with a concentration on self-care. Change is difficult, and when working to reach your greatest potential in any area of your life, the wellness coach believes you must begin with a healthy body and mind.

Why would someone choose to work with a health coach rather than a personal trainer or dietitian?

Many of my clients have worked with trainers or dietitians, both of whom are qualified to help people within their subject-matter expertise, but may not always have the knowledge or skills to help people make changes they can sustain for the long-term (once their prescribed plan ends).

The flaw in these approaches is that most people know exactly what they need to do to develop healthy lifestyle habits. It’s taking action on this knowledge that is the challenge. Coaches are trained to ask the tough questions that will have you exploring your deepest motivations for change, finally connecting your heart and head so that acting on what you know you need to do becomes second nature.

What can you expect when hiring a wellness coach?

Expect a powerful relationship between you and your coach! Together, you will explore your greatest health concerns and goals and examine the barriers to achieving those goals. Most importantly, your wellness coach will work with you to create your unique lifestyle plan that targets the strategies to overcome your obstacles.

Your health coach will help you create your personal wellness vision: a picture of what your life would look like and feel like if you were at your optimal level of health and wellness. You’ll explore why it truly matters to you, digging deep to uncover your deepest motivators for change. You will discuss the actions you would need to take to achieve this vision. Those actions become the foundation of long-term and short-term weekly goals that you create for yourself.

During weekly coaching conversations, which can take place on the phone, in person, online or even via video chat, you’ll celebrate successes of the past week, review any difficulties encountered, strategies around roadblocks, and set action goals for the upcoming week. Because the health coach does have the expertise, part of the activities outlined for you may include a balanced wellness program of exercise, nutrition, and health management based in health science. However, that information and suggestions are only given to you once you are ready, committed and confident that you can implement them successfully.

The average coaching relationship lasts anywhere from three months to several years—it all depends on you and your goals. Occasionally, a month or even a single coaching conversation can have a powerful impact. Although most coaches have a standard package for first-time clients, many are willing to create a package based on the client’s ultimate goal, time constraints and budget. You can expect a single meeting with your coach to last between 30 and 55 minutes.

How do you choose a wellness coach to work with?
When you set out to find a coach, there are several very important factors to consider:

Decide What Kind of Coaching You Need
If your priority is making healthy lifestyle changes, work with a certified health or wellness coach rather than a life coach. There will be times when you need expert advice concerning exercise, food, medical issues, etc. A healthcare professional trained as a coach has the combined clinical expertise and behavioral coaching skills needed to help you incorporate the science into actions that make sense for your unique personality and circumstances.

Look for a Certified Professional
I strongly believe that you should only talk with individuals who have training and certifications from reputable coaching programs (see some resources below). Since there is no state licensing, it is not illegal for anyone to call himself or herself a coach.

Shop Around before You Commit
A great place to start is with a referral from a friend. Explore the websites of potential coaches. There, you should find lots of information about a coach’s background, training and style. Most offer a complimentary session or consultation. Take advantage of it, and partake in conversations with several coaches before making a decision. Since most wellness coaching relationships can take place on the telephone, you can work with a coach from anywhere in the country!

Choose a Coach You Connect With
The coach-to-client relationship is very personal, so it is important that you connectwith your coach emotionally. There should be a strong sense that this is someone you like, can trust, and has your best interests in mind. If you sense that you are being judged, or told what to do, run the other way. Listen to your gut; it will tell you when you have found a good match.

Consider Your Budget
Budget is another key factor. Many coaches offer an initial coaching package that includes the actual coaching sessions, email support in between sessions, worksheets and educational information, record-keeping and follow-ups. That said, most health coaches charge between $200 and $1,000 per month for 3-4 sessions (usually with the aforementioned support in between meetings). The more training and experience the coach offers, the higher the fees, and there are surely exceptions to these averages.

Investing the time and budget into coaching is a big decision! If you decide to give it a try, go into it with the confident feeling that you are about to improve and enhance your life physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.


Adapted from: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=2006