Please note, the information provided herein is for general information purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The provision of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Health Coaches are wellness experts and mentors who help others feel their best through personalized diet and lifestyle changes. Coaches work with clients to help them discover the wellness routines that work for them and empower them to meet their unique health goals.
Chronic diseases are responsible for as many as seven out of 10 deaths in the United States. We need prevention, and that’s where health coaching comes in. Health Coaches are revolutionizing the healthcare system with their holistic approach to well-being, focusing on the power of bio-individual nutrition choices; the role of primary foods (all the things found off your plate that nourish you); and foundational yet impactful coaching techniques such as active listening, asking high-mileage questions, and goal setting.
Where Is the Line for What Health Coaches Can’t Do?
Health Coaches must stay within their scope of practice. This means, there are elements of health coaching that are allowed and encouraged and other elements that unless a Health Coach is also educated, certified, or licensed in a particular health-care field, they must leave out of their work.
Below we outline some common questions in regard to what a Health Coach can and cannot do as well as how Health Coaches can integrate themselves seamlessly into the healthcare system.
Can Health Coaches Bill Insurance?
The short answer: Yes!
Most employers and insurance companies have wellness benefits, which are funds set aside for reimbursement of practices that promote wellness, such as gym memberships, new-parent support, financial education services, supplements and medications, and even coaching services.
Health Coaches working with clients who have insurance are encouraged to ask their clients to look into whether their services are covered and also how the Health Coach can make working together as accessible as possible. That can involve a simple phone call on behalf of the client to their insurance company, whether the policy is private or provided through their employer.
Health Coaches who work within medical/hospital systems alongside medical practitioners are often able to have their services covered (partially or fully) by insurance. Read more below related to NPI numbers and how they impact a Health Coach’s ability to work in these particular settings.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition is just one of many institutions working to get health coaching services more widely used and reimbursed by health insurance companies.
Can Health Coaches obtain an NPI number?
An NPI (national practitioner identifier) is a 10-digit number that officially identifies practitioners within the greater healthcare system and helps them to abide by HIPAA laws in the United States. NPI numbers are used to submit services to insurance in a standardized way.
As of 2022, Health Coaches who are seeking to work in certain provider settings can apply for and obtain an NPI number utilizing a Health and Wellness Coach taxonomy code. Previously, there were codes only for other types of practitioners, such as doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, etc.
This is a huge step in the right direction for Health Coaches, as research has demonstrated their value in improving health outcomes – especially when in conjunction with traditional health-care modalities.
Dos and Don’ts of Practicing Safely
What a coaching practice looks like will differ depending on, who the coach is, which specific skill set and practice niche they choose, and what their clients are looking to achieve. However, there are overarching things coaches should ensure that they do and certain things they should avoid.
- Earn an education from a respected and credentialed school or program.
- Create a safe space for clients to explore health concerns and goals.
- Conduct yourself professionally and in accordance with a Health Coach scope of practice.
- Let sessions be client-led and client-centered.
- Always be willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll research this and get back to you.”
- Encourage self-exploration.
- Impose your personal opinions on the client.
- Dictate what the client should or should not do.
- Diagnose or treat any condition unless you are licensed/certified to do so.
- Order or interpret lab work unless you are licensed/certified to do so.
- Make unsubstantiated or false claims.
Is Nutrition Coaching Regulated?
Nutrition coaching, or coaching people about nutrition, is not expressly regulated in any state or country. Health Coaches provide general wellness and nutrition information, along with options, recommendations, guidance, motivation, and skill-building to establish healthier lifestyle routines as well as other support mechanisms to achieve client-focused personal health goals. None of these are regulated activities.
In approximately 12 U.S. states, the “practice of medical nutrition therapy” and/or the “practice of dietetics” requires a license from the state before someone can provide those specific services. The last dietetics law enacted was many decades ago.
Are there separate laws regulating telecoaching, or virtual coaching?
IIN is not aware of any laws regulating telecoaching or virtual coaching, so long as coaches work within the definitions of the practice of health coaching and use sound professional judgment when working with clients. When considering utilizing technology, such as Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype, to facilitate coaching sessions, you’ll want to make sure you’re up front with clients about privacy and confidentiality.
In Which States Can I Practice with an IIN Certificate?
Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches can practice health coaching in any state or country. A certification of completion from IIN’s Health Coach Training Program demonstrates your commitment to professional development and helps you stand out in the marketplace and to employers as a competent, knowledgeable, and dedicated coach. A private credential from any Health Coach or nutrition training program is different from a state license.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the foundation of health coaching can guide a coach on how to practice safely. Educating clients on health and wellness and motivating, listening, and holding them accountable are key to a successful coach-client relationship. If you have further questions about how an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach education can set you up for career success, reach out to an Admissions Health Coach today.