February 16, 2017
Last Updated:
February 5, 2024

Nine Essential Coaching Skills for Effective Health Coaches

Health Coaches are mentors and wellness experts who help their clients make sustainable, long-lasting lifestyle changes to meet their unique health goals. Coaches work with clients to help them discover how to fuel their bodies with nutritious food, lead a healthier lifestyle, and find the best wellness and health routines that work for them.

When Health Coaches are effective, they can change their clients' lives – but what makes a coach effective? What skills do coaches need to ensure they’re improving lives?

Nine Essential Health Coach Skills

Regardless of how you start your health coaching journey, there are some skills that great Health Coaches have mastered, regardless of whether they’re health coaching full-time or part-time, or if they’re integrated in health care, working with private clients, or leading small groups.

1. Passion for holistic health

Health coaching is about health, after all! A love for all things holistic health-related is an excellent foundation for an effective Health Coach. There’s no formal education required for someone to call themselves a Health Coach, so a quality education helps to set you ahead and apart from others.

2. Communication skills

A common myth in any service-based role is that you must be an extremely outgoing and outspoken person to succeed, but that isn’t necessarily the case with Health Coaches. Rather, your role is to guiding your clients on their path to wellness through accountability, motivation, and creating a safe space to explore their well-being, all while providing fact-based knowledge around health and wellness. How you go about that depends entirely on your personality and the kind of clients you wish to attract. The most important thing to remember is to be true and authentic to yourself, which includes how you use your outgoing nature or your soft-spoken side to your advantage.

3. Self-motivation

At its core, health coaching is a self-owned and self-run business, and that brings challenges that you may not experience when working for someone else. Setting your own deadlines, doing your own research, finding your own clients – that all needs to be done because you want it to get done. Self-motivation is essential to being an effective Health Coach, because no matter what situation you find yourself in, you need to keep yourself going.

4. Flexibility

Health Coaches need to be able to adapt to any given situation. As a coach, no two days are the same. Some sessions may run long, especially if your client is making significant progress that day, and you may have clients cancel sessions at the last minute. Being able to handle every situation as it arises is key, including letting go of what you can’t control, especially if it causes undue stress or anxiety.

5. Marketing skills

The ability to market yourself to prospective clients is one of the most essential skills a Health Coach can have. Again, you don’t have to be an outspoken person to introduce yourself to new people – social media makes it possible for you to meet prospective clients completely online. Social media is an incredibly valuable tool to market yourself, but it’s not the only way. Business cards, flyers, and emails can also be used to introduce yourself to potential new clients.

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6. Active listening

The truth is that you can’t really help people unless you are able to tune in and listen first. Sometimes that means reading between the lines to uncover what clients aren’t saying, sometimes it’s just plain listening so that they feel truly heard. Active listening also involves looking at body language, interpreting silence, and using open-ended questions that demonstrate you are following what your client is expressing. This is how you develop trust, refine your coaching intuition, and customize truly meaningful and effective coaching and wellness programs.

7. Continuous learning

The world of holistic health and nutrition is full of fascinating insights, research, new approaches, and different techniques to support individual health and wellness journeys. Different diets, body types,  fitness levels, cooking skills, financial means – all these things impact every single client in a host of different ways. There is always more to learn, and effective Health Coaches are always trying to learn more so that they can apply that learning in practical ways, from digging into research on certain health conditions to taking workshops on how to be a better communicator. This involves learning from clients, too! Every person you meet as a coach is an opportunity for a learning experience.

8. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and resonate with the feelings and experiences of others. Being able to understand your client’s feelings and what they are going through is the sign of an effective Health Coach. This is even more true if you haven’t experienced situations that your clients have: By putting yourself in their shoes, you can determine how best to assist them. Clients come to Health Coaches because they need support, so it’s the coach’s job to be just that – supportive and compassionate.

9. Organization

Having updated and organized resource files, a clear schedule to follow, and the ability to stay focused on priorities are keys to an organized health coaching career. If you’re disorganized in a way that affects your clients, like missing an appointment or not following up on an email, it could hurt your business bottom line. However, coaches are human too, so don’t feel pressured to create unrealistic expectations for yourself. Check out these eight Health Coaching apps to keep your coaching practice organized.

What Separates Effective Health Coaches from Ineffective Ones?

The difference between an effective and an ineffective Health Coach ultimately comes down to what clients are looking for from the relationship. If the coach and their client have wildly different expectations and motivations, the relationship won’t be successful. This is why it’s so important to ensure that coaches and clients are on the same page from day one.

Effective coaches will be able to walk clients through a general overview of their scope of practice, what services they offer, and how they work with clients. Once this initial meeting is complete, they can work with their clients to tailor the advice and services they offer to meet their clients’ unique situation. Effective coaches listen to their clients’ concerns, questions, and prior experiences with health and wellness without judgement.

Ineffective coaches may only offer a one-size-fits-all program for all their clients, regardless of their unique health circumstances. They may be uncommunicative with clients, unsupportive, unable to properly motivate and inspire, and at worst, might lead them to make unsafe decisions for their health and well-being.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the skills you develop before becoming a Health Coach will only get you started. Continuing to hone your coaching skills and seeking out educational opportunities for growth (like IIN’s Health Coach Training Program™) can help ensure you become – and stay – an effective Health Coach.

Author Biography
Katy Weniger
IIN Content Writer

Katy holds a bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing and advertising from Rider University. After jobs in the field of finance, she wanted to transition to an industry that focused on helping others be their best selves, and discovered IIN.

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