Health Coaching Mythbusters
Samvida Patel, IIN Content Editor, Class of February 2015
Just as the chiropractic field was met with heavy criticism since its official founding in 1895 before becoming recognized and widely accepted, the merits of health coaching were also debated – for a much shorter period fortunately. Presently, the global wellness economy is worth more than $4.2 trillion, with the U.S. health coaching market alone comprising $6 billion of that market value. Individuals and companies alike increasingly seek out Health Coaches to help create positive and sustainable change to well-being.
With all the buzz health coaching is creating around the globe, what better opportunity to dispel some common myths we’ve heard along the way?
Myth 1: Health coaching isn’t recognized in my area.
When we first created the field in 1992, many had their doubts on whether they could be successful Health Coaches; yet the burgeoning chronic disease burden only exacerbated the need for Health Coaches, given their ability to bring about and maintain long-term solutions to health issues.
Additionally, IIN’s Health Coach Training Program was designed to include business and marketing training in conjunction with a comprehensive curriculum encompassing nutrition, lifestyle, and coaching – including how to speak about your role as a Health Coach, foster partnerships with other health professionals in the community, and conduct client sessions remotely so you can have clients anywhere in the world! Check out how Sílvia Taveira de Almeida built a web-based health coaching business in Portugal.
Since its founding, IIN has trained more than 100,000 graduates in 150+ countries worldwide. Health coaching as a field grew 8% per year from 2006 to 2017, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 16% increase in employment between 2016 and 2026, reaffirming the field’s widespread growth and traction.
Myth 2: Health coaching isn’t “science-y” enough.
The term “holistic” is often mistaken for “unscientific,” but the two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. Taking a holistic approach means addressing health from all aspects of a person’s life – not just the food they eat, but the exercise they do, the quality of their relationships, their stress, their work-life balance, mental health, and much, much more.
In fact, we intentionally teach various – and sometimes contradictory – modalities in nutrition and lifestyle practices that support well-being because they all showcase findings that positively benefit health. For example, a plant-based diet is great for heart health, but the Mediterranean diet, which includes fish, has also repeatedly been shown to have numerous health benefits. So which one should you follow?
Therein lies the dichotomy: Nutrition is very much a science, but no one can account for individual variances in the subjects participating in a given research study. The reason contradicting dietary approaches have their share of benefits (and drawbacks) is that individuals respond uniquely to different foods. The same goes for wellness practices.
This is the very premise our curriculum rests on – bio-individuality, or the idea that there is no perfect diet that works for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Myth 3: RDs and nutritionists already exist, so Health Coaches aren’t needed.
While it can seem that these professions are closely related, their scopes of practice are very different, with each serving a unique purpose.
Nutritionists and dietitians practice in accordance with the national dietary guidelines, providing advanced nutrition care to patients to improve their health. While Health Coaches also address nutrition, they do not prescribe or treat but instead support clients in intuitively understanding what foods and larger patterns in nutrition work for their bodies and developing new, health-supporting habits that stick.
In addition, Health Coaches help clients gain a big-picture focus on their well-being goals, guiding them in making lifestyle changes outside food – at IIN, we call this primary food, the concept that there’s more that nourishes us than what’s on our plate. This includes lifestyle areas like career, relationships, self-care, physical activity, and spiritual practice, all of which contribute to our well-being and happiness.
So patients can very well work with multiple healthcare professionals to receive the medical and nutrition care they need, while also partnering with a Health Coach to become more in tune with their well-being needs and working on their wellness goals for the long haul.
Myth 4: Degree programs carry more weight than certificates.
Until recently, we’ve heard from parents, teachers, and society that we need to go to college and get a degree before getting a job. But that’s not the case anymore.
Opting for a certificate program has become a growing trend – and for the right reasons: Forbes describes certificate courses as a beneficial way to “build skills in a new or growing specialty,” which in turn “increases overall marketability.”
And that’s exactly what IIN’s certificate helps you achieve: the necessary coaching skills to guide clients in creating lifelong positive shifts in well-being and the opportunity to gather practical coaching experience before graduating.
Of course, if you want to continue your education and obtain a degree, completing IIN’s Health Coach Training Program is recognized for up to 40 college credits, which can be applied toward a bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctoral degree!
Myth 5: Starting your own business as a coach takes too much time.
While starting a business isn’t for everyone, that doesn’t mean the process is any more grueling or time consuming than opting for a traditional career path. In fact, our Health Coach Training Program is set up to release business and marketing tools as you progress through the curriculum; this includes your own website and business cards, newsletter and press kit templates, done-for-you coaching handouts, client paperwork, monthly marketing action plans, invoice templates, revenue tracking sheets, and so much more.
This way, at the halfway point of the course, you’ll already be equipped with the knowledge and skills to start working with clients and earning an income before graduating. That may look like making health coaching a side hustle before transitioning into a full-blown career like IIN grad Chani Thompson did!
While we equip students with the skills and guidance to start working with clients during the program, leveraging the support from the IIN community can be an incredible resource when it comes to building a business. With hundreds of other like-minded students in a single cohort, it’s easy to find the support, accountability, and motivation to bring your ideas to fruition. Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches Sarah Casden and Brenna Blackmun reflect on the importance of community and how that shaped their IIN experience and their businesses.
Myth 6: Only a handful of people find success.
Just as eating and living healthy can mean different things for different people, success is a concept that can drastically vary from one individual to the next.
At IIN, we connect with people from all over the world. Many graduates do pursue health coaching with the intention of working full-time, be it in a private practice or for a company, while just as many are content in their careers and want to pursue health coaching on the side. Likewise, many people are simply looking to broaden their knowledge about nutrition and health, improve their well-being, or help loved ones along their healing journey.
With 100,000+ students and graduates around the world, it’s safe to say there are far more than a handful who have found success. Check out what they’re up to here! You can also see what students and graduates have to say here!
As we like to say, what you put into the program is what you get out. If you’re actively engaged while learning, seeking support from staff and students, and making use of all the resources that are given to you, you’ll set yourself up for success.
Myth 7: Health Coaches aren’t qualified to take on clients with real health issues.
Though Health Coaches do not diagnose, prescribe, or treat, the value they bring to improving health outcomes is significant, as progressively acknowledged by traditional medicine. A growing number of healthcare establishments, like Parsley Health, Eleven Eleven by Dr. Frank Lipman, and PeaceHealth, are utilizing Health Coaches to work with the most challenging patients because Health Coaches are “from the community; they speak the language of the people they serve.”
Health coaching extends beyond weight loss and physical health, making way for deeper, underlying issues that contribute to a person’s quality of life and emotional well-being. Health coaching isn’t designed to replace conventional healthcare, but rather complement it to increase the effectiveness of the entire system.
Most recently, the American Medical Association announced approval for Health Coaches certified by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) to use Category III CPT codes effective January 1, 2020. These codes enable data collection to test the usage and impact of emerging services – in this case, health coaching – with the hope that they can become permanent Category 1 codes, which corresponds to a service billable by insurance.
Coming from one of the most well-respected medical organizations in the United States, this is testament to Health Coaches’ unique capacity to spark a much-needed change. What’s more, IIN’s Health Coach Training Program and six-week Coaching Intensive Practicum enable graduates to earn their board certification through the NBHWC, demonstrating IIN’s systemic impact on the healthcare system.
So if you’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a Health Coach, there really couldn't be a better time to join the movement created by IIN. Get started today!