Introduction to Health and Wellness Coaching

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Introduction to Health and Wellness Coaching

The National Consortium for Credentialing of Health and Wellness Coaches (NCCHWC):

"Health and wellness coaches are professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change."

Literature Review (Global Advances in Health and Medicine, Vol. 2, Number 4, July 2013, Ruth Q. Wolever et. al.) defines Health and Wellness Coaching as:

"A patient-centered approach wherein patients at least partially determine their goals, use self-discovery or active learning processes together with content education to work toward their goals, and self-monitor behaviors to increase accountability, all within the context of an interpersonal relationship with a coach. The coach is a healthcare professional trained in behavior change theory, motivational strategies, and communication techniques, which are used to assist patients to develop intrinsic motivation and obtain skills to create sustainable change for improved health and well-being."

Health and Wellness Coaching must have training in an model that:

  1. Is patient-centered
  2. Let's clients identify their own goals for change
  3. Facilitates a self-discovery process
  4. Helps patients be accountable
  5. Content knowledge


Health and Wellness Coaching Basics

How Coaching Works:

Health and wellness coaches work with clients to improve their health, vitality, and well-being by engaging in behaviors that have been proven to improve health and prevent disease including weight loss, fitness, nutrition, stress coping, sleep, mind-body and positive psychology interventions. The outcome of health and wellness coaching is expanded capacity for lifestyle change and sustainable lifestyle change. Many people struggle with something that is damaging their well-being -- e.g. uncontrolled stress, excess weight, life balance, low energy, poor fitness, inadequate levels of positive emotions, or a medical condition. They find it difficult to engage, day in day out, in investing in their health and well-being in order to foster vitality and avoid a preventable illness. 

While some people are what behavioral psychologists call “pre-contemplators” – either in denial or at rock bottom confidence levels around lifestyle change, most people can be described as “contemplators.” They frequently think about living healthier lifestyles and weigh up the pros and cons for change. Good intentions and earnest attempts abound. What fails is the implementation - people lack lifestyle and psychological knowledge, skills, capacities, processes, tools, mindsets, and support leading to autonomous, lasting lifestyle change.

Coaches help people overcome the struggle, and build resources such as self-empathy, self-motivation, self-awareness, mindfulness, new insights and perspectives, confidence, optimism, and resilience, and make changes that last. Their new lifestyles become embedded into who they are.

The main dimensions of the work of health and wellness coaches include:


  1. Serving as wellness role models

  2. Enabling a holistic and personalized integration of multiple lifestyle areas

  3. Facilitating the gain of lifestyle knowledge and skills just in time

  4. Facilitating the building of psychological resources that enable lasting change

  5. Facilitating a process of change

  6. Connecting to other resources and professional experts as needed or desired


Standards for qualifications, training, and certification, as well as the distinction between health coaches and wellness coaches are needed and a priority for this emerging profession.

Basic Coaching Competencies

A PPT presentation presented at the 24th Harvard Medical School obesity conference held in June 2010 introduces four coaching mechanisms of action that are responsible for positive outcomes. The mechanisms are listed below along with core coaching competencies of health and wellness coaches

Delivering a growth-promoting relationship:

  1. Build rapport, trust, and connection through deep listening and empathy.

  2. Create coaching presence that demonstrates affirmation, authenticity, courage, humor, and zest.

  3. Maintain a coaching mindset of partner and ally, not top-down expert or treatment provider, in order to build autonomy and personal responsibility.

  4. Generate new thinking, insights, perspectives, and mindsets through open and appreciative inquiry and reflections. 

Eliciting self-motivation:

  1.  Develop self-motivation including clarifying higher purpose for optimal wellness.

  2. Increase hope and optimism via a vision and realistic plan of lifestyle behavior improvement

Developing the capacity to change:

  1. Increase self-efficacy around sustainable lifestyle change.

  2. Generate positive emotions, resilience, and capacity to change.

Facilitating a process of change:

  1. Facilitate a stepwise change process, including methods for experimenting with new behaviors, and tracking outcomes and the adoption of new behaviors.

  2. Strategize through barriers and navigate through challenges to change, harvesting the lessons and bouncing back quickly from setbacks.

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