Do you want to improve the quality of your health? Lose some weight? Gain energy? Be more in tune with yourself and what you, personally, need in order to achieve your optimum level of wellbeing? Or do you just have a better connection between your mind, body, and spirit? If any or all of this is what you truly want, then the answer is clear. It is time to find the right coach for your individual situation so that you can get to the fun, rewarding, and challenging task of making some permanent and meaningful life changes.
But how to find the right coach?
There are a lot of them out there and the line between therapy and coaching may seem thin. In addition, life and business coaches are a little more common than health coaches, it seems, but the field is growing. There is always going to be someone who makes all sorts of promises that may or may not come to fruition and you do need to know that a coach is not a therapist. Consequently, the purpose of this post is to help you to find the right coach for you. It could be me or it may be someone else, but the right one for you and your very own unique circumstances exists. As you prepare to invest in yourself and your health, it is crucial to be informed and empowered.
Finding the right health coach is not that hard when you know what to look for and you are knowledgeable about the the questions to ask. Read on, and find out just these things herein.
~~~What is it that you need?~~~
1). Preventable chronic diseases provide an impetus to work with a coach. Obesity, diabetes, and the effects of ongoing stress and anxiety are all reasons to invest in a coach to help you change your direction. Not to pile on with the scare tactics, but if you’ve ever wondered what is going on with general health across the board, take a look here at the CDC’s overview of chronic preventable health trends. The right coach for you can give you the support and guidance and inspiration that you need so that your condition is vastly improved or, at the very least, your way of handling it is the very best it can be.
2). Chronic diseases that are neither preventable nor curable also can benefit from the input of a coach. In this case, you really need to vet your coach with care. I’ve seen mentions of fibromyalgia coaches and I personally really love working with the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome community (see my blog post on the subject of EDS and coaching, here). Everyone can find a greater level of fitness, wellness, and ease within their body even if it’s but a modest gain. Great journeys begin with the first small step and you may just find that your coach helps you to achieve a level of comfort and wellness that you never would have thought possible. You never know until you try, but research does support the value of working with a coach for chronic illness (see here).
3). The mind-body connection you need eludes you. For whatever reason, you are not happy with yourself, how you feel, and how and in what form your discontent is expressed by your body. This could be via chronic too-high stress response, insomnia, a weight roller coaster, binge eating, skin conditions that flare with stress, body image concerns, or…well, everyone is different, so you fill in the blank with your unique concern. One thing a good coach can do for you can involve challenging received wisdom about what a healthy body looks like (I discuss this topic here). Hashing things out with a partner in your wellness journey can bring you the clarity and purpose that was lacking. Gaining how-to skills in self care, especially if you have an incredibly high-stress occupation, can be part and parcel of your relation with a coach.
~~~What kind of training has your coach had?~~~
A quick Google search will yield you a number of coaches. That doesn’t mean that you’ve found the right one just that quickly though. Training is important and so is context. Self-presentation means a lot too.
1). Is the coach certified, and by whom? For an outline of the top five most popular certifying resources, check this article here. I am certified by ACE, which came in at number two in the linked list; of ACE, the author notes, “It is the only organization whose health coach certification is accredited by the National Council on Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This distinction means the certification has been officially recognized by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence as a credential whose holders are competent professionals in the field of health coaching.” However, ACE is not the only good way to become qualified. There are several perfectly good ways to become credentialed and your potential coach should make it clear that they are certified and clarify by whom they are certified. If you want to know what characterizes their program, the coach should be able to speak readily about their preparation and how it compares to other certifications.
2). What else can your coach do for you? Do they hold any other certifications or have they any other qualifications that are important to you? I’ve met a Harvard-trained MD who is also a certified health coach; they underwent the training to learn motivational interviewing, which is a foundation of coaching’s efficacy. I’ve met other coaches who are not affiliated with medical care but who, instead, focus on exercise and lifestyle modification and are trained from that perspective. As for me? I have just completed a four-year master’s degree program in Chinese medicine and am undergoing board exams for my acupuncture license. Currently, I’m a certified Asian bodywork therapist, a health coach, a certified personal trainer, and a certified yoga instructor. In my previous career, I was a professor of literature and culture. (Update: As of June 2018, boards are complete and I am, as a result, a licensed acupuncturist). All these things put together mean that I am able to do quite a lot for the right type of client. Health coaching attracts interesting and talented people, so your chances of finding one with just the right combination of skills and interests for your needs is high. You just need to look and be prepared to ask questions.
3). What type of experience does the potential coach have? Who do they tend to attract? I tend to attract smart people who want to engage with their health in an active way. People who are creative, and those who like to think and ask lots of questions, love working with me, and I am enthusiastic about working with them. People for whom weight loss is part of an overarching life change find me and do well with my brand of coaching. I also tend to attract people who are interested in the holistic nature of traditional Chinese medicine, though not all are keen on acupuncture or other forms of TCM. I also really enjoy working with people who need self care skills for their work, be it in high-trauma fields like first responders or be it in high-stakes occupations like lawyers or professors. If a person is in a chronic stress environment that isn’t going to change any time soon, it takes creativity and grit to make something good happen regardless, and I find that an enjoyable challenge and so do my clients. (If you are interested in my blog posts on the topic of health coaching, check here).
Note: Your potential coach should be able to tell you what they don’t work with just as easily as they tell you what they do work with. Me? I don’t have a gift for coaching postpartum, I have no experience with cardiac rehab patients, and I’m not the best with senior health. I have clients in these categories who come to me for traditional Chinese bodywork therapy and/or acupuncture. If any one of them mentioned wanting a coach I could find referrals for them, but these subjects aren’t my strongest as a coach. It’s really important for a coach to know his or her gifts and work with those; it also matters that the coach has a good referral network. Ask about it.
~~~That magic ingredient: trust~~~
So you have identified why it is you want a coach and you looked around and found one that seems to have the right qualifications for your unique circumstances. Maybe your MD or your Human Resources Office has a referral service for a coach. It could be that you found your coach through word of mouth because someone you know knows and loves this coach. Any way you cut it, the number one thing that needs to be palpable is that sense of trust.
1). One and only one point here: do you feel comfortable, safe, and as though your coach has your best interests at heart? Does your coach have experience and can they articulate what it is that they think they can do with and for you? When you go to their web site, it should feel like a real site, not a canned click bait factory. Some coaches will be local finds and with others, you will be long-distance. Either is good. When you contact the coach, though, they should offer you a free consultation to make sure that you are compatible. If you’d like, they should be able to provide either a reference or two, or show you to some form of client reviews. Your coach should be able to clearly say what he or she thinks she is capable of doing AND be able to identify areas that are not in the scope of practice. Your coach should have a solid referral network so that you have the option of expanding your program if you like.
I, for instance, do not do much personal training or yoga teaching any more because my focus really is on the health coaching and the TCM. I still very offer short-term, goal-specific training and teaching, but if it’s longer term, I refer out. Your coach should be able to articulate what he or she will and can do and what he or she refers out. Transparency and a sense that you are able to trust your coach makes or breaks the relation. Their social media presence, the initial free consultation, and the feeling that you are respected are crucial aspects of the coach/client relation.
Are you ready to get started?
Different coaches have varying levels of preparation and diverse skills sets. At the foundation of coaching, though, there are some areas of common ground. Coaching is not therapy. It is more of a how-to and an ah-ha process that is designed with you and for you. In therapy, your psychotherapist generally will focus on your past, at least to some degree; in contrast, a coach will keep your eyes on the prize in the here and now. It is very common to have blind spots and barriers right in front of you that spring from what you are currently doing. A good coach will help you pinpoint these obstacles and help you find effective ways to work around or to eliminate them entirely. While your therapist’s job is to help you make sense of and assign meaning to emotional pain or unproductive patterns, a coach will keep you on track by helping you to build new skills and by actively expanding your horizons to get rid of bad habits for good.
Your coaching sessions can be a master class in an important subject: you and your health.
Are you ready to develop self-care skills? Do you want to lose the weight (physical and emotional) that you have carried for far too long? Do you want to explore and discover ways to make your life the healthiest it can be? As the saying goes: when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Are you ready?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX office. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
TNote: Material on this web site is not intended to replace your treatment or care provided by an MD. It is for educational/entertainment purposes only. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Always consult your primary care doctor for health concerns.