By Jennifer Nelson
You may be familiar with a life coach, a type of guru you can hire when you need help in making a decision, heading in a new direction or feeling stuck in some aspect of your work, personal, or love life. So it may be of little surprise that wellness coaches can do the same for your health.
A wellness coach may or may not have some background in fitness, nutrition or health and for a fee of $50- $1000 per session, usually once a week to once a month, offer you advice on getting control of some aspect of your health.
“The concept of "wellness" is more expansive than just physical health. In my practice my emphasis is assisting my clients in achieving optimal wellness, which incorporates physical, emotional and spiritual well-being,” says wellness educator Jennifer Schmid.1
Do you need a healthier diet, do you need an exercise plan you can stick with, have you been diagnosed with a chronic condition for which you need more direction than your doctor or specialist can provide? These are some of the areas where a wellness coach can help.
Since it’s an exploding field, there’s probably not one good avenue to find a wellness coach says Susanna Carter, MD, a wellness coach in Birmingham, Ala. “I’d start with someone in the medical field, a physician, a psychologist, a nurse or anyone you have a connection to and ask for a recommendation,” says Carter. Next, turn to the Internet and look up wellness coaches. Though you can choose someone in your region, many coaches provide virtual services online or by phone. Again, look for someone with a medical, mental health, nutrition or fitness background depending on what you’re looking to accomplish.2
Most wellness coaches usually offer a complimentary session to see if they’re a good fit. “As a holistic nurse educator, I generally offer people a 30-minute complimentary phone session so that I can get a sense of their health issues and what their goals are, and they can get a sense of how I work,” says Schmid.3
It’s important to make sure that you are comfortable with the coach, since this is someone with whom you will likely form a longer-term relationship. You should feel comfortable sharing your private health information and discussing personal issues. Coaches should also have testimonials from other clients that give you an idea of some of their previous successes.4
Credentialing wellness coaches is still sketchy since there is no formal accreditation as of yet. Each state has different licensing and certification laws, and scopes of practice can vary.
For instance, an excellent coach might have been studying nutrition for 20 years but not have a formal degree. Others may be physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners as well as nutritionists and fitness trainers. Coaches that are more life oriented, for example, helping you hone the direction your life takes, making huge work, geographical or personal relationship decisions should not be confused with wellness coaches, as they often will not have a health background. Look for someone with more than a life coaching certificate.
“It’s important to remember that unless a coach is a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant, a coach cannot legally diagnose illness or prescribe treatments or medications,” says Schmid.5
A wellness coach is there to guide, educate and make suggestions so that you can then make positive changes to your own life with regards to diet, lifestyle, exercise or managing a chronic condition.
“I can’t treat you online, so this is not a medical relationship, emphasizes Carter, who is a physician. Patients still need to see their doctor to get their diagnosis, treatment and medications. Coaches should not diagnose, treat or insist you take some supplements or herbal medications for which they are affiliated.6
The “right” coach for someone definitely depends on several factors. First, what are your health conditions? Are you dealing with a chronic disease such as diabetes, or do you take prescription medications for specific conditions? Do you need to improve unhealthy eating and/or lifestyle habits that could affect your health?
“If you’re considering working with a coach, you should ask yourself, do you want a more wellness-oriented coach to help you maintain good health, or are you looking more for a health and illness-oriented coach to help you manage illness and get better?” says Schmid.7
“Good wellness coaches first and foremost are excellent listeners. They ask questions, they do not judge, they listen, are compassionate and deeply try to understand,” says health coach Emmanuelle Galland, He says wellness coaches should:
Having someone to be accountable to with their best interests at heart is invaluable to people who want to make long lasting changes. Wellness coaches can provide a valuable service and fill an important niche for clients seeking to take control of their health and make positive changes through diet and lifestyle.
Sources not cited or linked to above:
1, 3,4,5,7 Jennifer Schmid, MSN, RN, CNL, is a holistic nurse and natural wellness educator in Santa Clara, California
2,,6 Susanna Carter, MD, physician and wellness coach, private practice
8 Emmanuelle Galland, board certified integrative nutrition holistic health coach (Institute for Integrative Nutrition and American Association of Drugless Practitioner) and author of Feeding Success: A Nutrition Blueprint for Busy Professionals and Business Travelers.
9 Anthea Grimason is a yoga instructor and wellness coach at Samahita Retreat, Thailand
This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical, legal, financial, or other professional advice or used in place of consulting a licensed professional. You should consult with an applicable licensed professional to determine what is right for you.
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