December 11, 2021
Last Updated:
January 17, 2023

How to Know if Your Health Coach is Legit: 10 Questions to Ask a Health Coach

When first meeting with a Health Coach, you’ll probably have questions. After all, the relationship between coach and client needs to work for both parties in order to be effective, and many people don’t know what to expect during health coaching sessions. Getting your questions answered can help you not only choose the right coach for you and move your wellness journey forward, but also help you determine if your Health Coach has been trained properly by a legitimate institution!

What Is Health Coaching?

Health coaching is a partnership between a coach and their client, and it begins with an introductory meeting where the client’s health history is discussed. During this session, initial concerns are addressed as well as any restrictions, lifestyle considerations, and long-term and short-term goals.

Kiran Dodeja Smith, an IIN graduate and a Health Coach, explains that initial client concerns “may look something like: ‘I’m having problems losing weight,’ ‘I’m sick of feeling tired all the time,’ ‘I’m bloated and have no idea why,’ or ‘I just don’t feel like myself.’ These areas of concern are personal and will vary greatly [from client to client].”

After the initial meeting, client and coach meet again, to further discuss goals and decide on a working, flexible timeline for achieving them. Health Coaches provide accountability to support clients on their individual health and wellness journeys.

No matter your goal, you’ve probably found yourself struggling, no matter how badly you wanted to achieve it. Having a Health Coach helps you set intentions, make a realistic plan to go after those intentions, and personalizes accountability to make sure things stay on track. Having a supportive and encouraging mentor can make all the difference when making changes in your life.

How to Get the Most Out of Working with a Health Coach

When figuring out questions to ask of new or potential Health Coaches, it’s important to go in with a plan. Well-organized and trained coaches will be able to walk you through a general overview of their scope of practice, what services they offer, and how they work with clients, but you may have questions that relate to your specific situation. Having these ready ahead of time allows you to decide whether the coach will be a good fit for your needs.

Questions for a New Health Coach

Why did you become a Health Coach?

The reason someone becomes a Health Coach is varied and is often related to personal struggles the coach has personally experienced. For IIN grad Kevin Ellis, becoming a coach was a way to resolve a number of health issues related to osteoporosis. He was looking for a way to shift from feelings of fear and overwhelm and defeat to feelings of determination. This isn’t to say that every coach has had health struggles – some just enjoy helping others and have a natural affinity for health and wellness.

What certifications do Health Coaches have?

The journey to becoming a Health Coach is just as diverse as the reason someone becomes a coach. Since there’s no one path to becoming a Health Coach, the route can be very different from coach to coach.

To earn a reputable education, Health Coaches find a program that suits their needs, such as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program. After completing the program, coaches can apply to sit for the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) board-certification exam (after completing the prerequisites), which demonstrates their dedication to the practice as well as competency in their profession.

Behavioral and Lifestyle Questions

How is coaching different from seeing a therapist?

Therapists diagnose and treat mental health conditions, including helping people work through trauma, relationship conflict, and other issues. Working with a therapist or psychologist can also help you deal with unresolved mental health concerns, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or other similar conditions.

Health Coaches are not mental health professionals, and their work shouldn’t be centered on treating mental health conditions (unless they also have the training and licensure to do so). Health Coaches can provide information and support to alleviate some of the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression through behavior and lifestyle changes, but a responsible Health Coach will refer clients to mental health professionals if needed.

How long does it take for most people to see a change in weight, stress levels, mindset, etc.?

“A health coach empowers people with the tools and processes to build self-efficacy around their well-being,” explains Vanessa Clermont, IIN grad and current Health Coach. “Everyone is different, and change will vary for each person. A motivated individual can notice minor changes within the first two to three weeks, when working with a Health Coach. More substantial changes can take anywhere from three to six months.”

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How do coaching sessions work?

Coaching sessions differ greatly, depending on the coaches’ and clients’ schedules, what the clients’ goals are, and a number of other factors. Clermont says she “meet[s] with clients for 45 to 60 minutes, weekly or biweekly, to help provide a safe space for each person to learn a holistic approach to wellness.”

Nutrition and Exercise Questions

Can Health Coaches create meal plans?

If a coach has a background in nutrition ‒ particularly if they’re a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) ‒ they’re able to focus specifically on the nutritional aspect of wellness and provide meal plans.

Health Coaches who focus on nutrition in their scope of practice are going to differ from licensed nutrition professionals. Dietitians and nutritionists are certified nutrition practitioners who make nutrition recommendations based on medical histories and needs, including prescribing diets. Health Coaches empower their clients to seek out the food and diets that work for them as bio-individuals, and they provide support and accountability for clients making these types of changes in their lives. Health Coaches can work alongside licensed nutrition professionals to provide their clients with a holistic coaching experience.

How is coaching different from working with a personal trainer?

Similar to the differences between a Health Coach and a registered dietitian nutritionist, a Health Coach and a personal trainer will have different scopes of practice.

If your goals are exercise-related, then your Health Coach will work with you to stick to an exercise routine provided by a personal trainer. While there is some overlap between Health Coaches and personal trainers, there are key differences. While a personal trainer’s main role is within fitness settings, like gyms, Health Coaches will not instruct clients on specific exercises or create exercise programs. Instead, a Health Coach will help a client create goals that allow them to stick to their desired exercise routines and create better overall well-being.

Coaching-Style Questions

What – if any – specialty areas do coaches focus on?

Coaches are not one-size-fits-all. They can focus on nutrition, pregnancy, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases...the possibilities are endless! Finding a coach who specializes in the areas you need to work on will go a long way toward addressing your specific needs.

How will my coach and I communicate between sessions?

Communication is key when it comes to the coach-client relationship; and just like in every relationship, communication will look different. Coaches may check in several times in between sessions to gauge the progress you’re making toward your goals and help you tackle any challenges you may be experiencing. It’s important to be honest about your experience, so your coach can adjust your program accordingly and get you on the right path.

Do Health Coaches take insurance, payment plans, or HSA/FSA?

Some coaches may take insurance or accept HSA or FSA payments. Coaches can also work with clients on a sliding scale, meaning that they allow their clients to pay what they can if finances are tight. It truly depends on the individual coach.

While not all insurance companies cover health coaching, there are Category III Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes available for clinicians (and Health Coaches working with clinicians) to submit health coaching services to insurance providers. This is a great step in making health coaching services more accessible for everyone!

The Bottom Line

The reason someone seeks out a Health Coach will determine what they need from their coach and the goals they are trying to reach.

Someone looking for workout advice and accountability may ask questions that differ from those of someone seeking guidance in their relationships. No matter the reason or reasons you’re looking to work with a Health Coach, making certain they’re the right fit for you will ensure you get the most out of your time, money, and experience. 

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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