One of the trendiest (and newest) professions in the health care market are health and nutrition coaches. They've now become affordable, accessible and even available online.
This uptick isn't surprising. Health coaches can bridge the gap and offer more in-depth support where other health care providers fall short. They can also help you achieve health goals that don't require medical intervention, such as losing weight, creating better eating habits or establishing a new exercise routine.
They can fill the roles of confidant, cheerleader, motivator, friend, and when necessary, they can give you a good kick in the pants to get you back on track.
But finding a coach that's best suited for your specific issues, personality and needs can be a challenge ... especially with all the choices. They differ tremendously in training, experience, philosophy and price. And not all coaches are trained or licensed to work with people who have medical issues.
As a naturopathic physician who offers holistic health coaching, I have a unique perspective on what's important when looking for a coach, especially if you have medical concerns or challenging health issues.
These are the five questions you should ask before hiring someone to guide you with your health.
1. What kind of training and experience do you have?
There's a broad spectrum of health coaches. On one end, there are those who have no training or certifications. On the other are doctors and licensed health care providers who offer coaching as part of their services.
It's up to you to decide if you're comfortable with the level of training and experience of the coach you intend to hire.
If you have a specific illness or medical concern, ask their experience working with individuals like you. Are they licensed to treat people with medical issues? Are they aware of specific needs you may have or certain limitations?
In some cases, it may be important to find someone who is both a licensed health care provider and a holistic health coach (there are a few of us out there!). We're trained to handle any medical issues that may come up and facilitate healthy changes in the safest and most effective way.
2. How do you work with people holistically?
As complex human beings, our health is a culmination of our physical and emotional, mental and spiritual health. When striving to make health changes it's important to be mindful of all areas of our well-being.
Many coaches are trained in one thing: nutrition, personal training, spiritual guidance, behavior change or weight loss.
Not all coaches or health care providers are equipped to handle all aspects of your health and that's OK! It's rare to find someone who is well trained in all these areas (and I would be leery of anyone who claims to have mastered all of them).
A coach should be aware of the importance of treating people holistically and have the tools — or a good referral network — to help you in key areas during your quest for better health.
3. What are your tools for helping me get unstuck?
Most people seek the help of a health coach when they're stuck. They've tried to make changes but have found blocks, resistance and challenges.
Usually when clients come to me "stuck," it's because they haven't explored the mental, emotional or spiritual factors that affect their health. It's often here where fears, resistance, self-sabotaging behaviors and self-deprecating thoughts must be healed.
Exploring these areas can be intimidating and scary. A coach should be able to sit in this space with you and feel comfortable with the uncomfortable stuff that comes up. They also have the tools and training to do this with you in a safe, healing environment.
4. When would you refer me to a licensed health care provider?
It's very important to be clear with your coach what their scope of practice is. Many coaches are not medically trained and are not licensed to diagnose or treat medical illness.
Just because a coach has worked with people with a certain disease doesn't mean they're certified or qualified to treat you medically.
A good (and confident) coach will know their limitations and be willing to discuss them with you. They should be comfortable admitting, "I don't know how to help you with this" or saying, "I think a more thorough work-up by a health care provider is needed."
5. Would I still be in control of my health?
Lasting health changes only occur when a client takes ownership of her own healing. We're unique, intricate beings with different personalities, motivations and challenges.
It takes time for me to intimately understand my clients and guide them toward the best methods and approaches for them. One size does not fit all!
I love when people say to me, "that won't work for me" because we get to come up with lots of ideas on how to make health work better for them. In fact, when something doesn't work it usually helps us more specifically find what does ... and this is how we create success in our health!
Hiring a health coach can be a great addition to your health care team. Asking the right questions will help guide you in finding the best fit for your needs.