What Is a Wellness Coach? – Everything You Need to Know
Nina Zorfass, IIN Content Editor
The recommendations for living a healthy life are seemingly simple: eat well, engage in regular physical activity, get proper sleep, and practice self-care. But you probably know it’s easier said than done because, well, life can get in the way! You have a career that keeps you busy; you have a family to take care of – you’re stressed!
It’s an all-too-common story we tell ourselves over and over again, and we often make excuses as to why we can’t reach our goals of achieving great health and well-being. Does this sound like you? That’s where a wellness coach comes in!
What is a wellness coach?
A wellness coach, or a health and wellness coach, is a supportive guide who helps clients set health goals, whether to lose weight, improve energy, better manage stress, and much more. In addition to being a mentor who holds clients accountable, health and wellness coaches are vital members of the greater healthcare team, bridging the gap between traditional healthcare and enacting sustainable and positive behavioral lifestyle changes.
Through fostering a positive mind-set around health and well-being, wellness coaches empower and motivate their clients to become their own experts. Wellness coaches have the tools and knowledge to share with their clients about holistic health and how to enact sustainable behavior change, but their role is not to tell the client what’s best for them. Everyone is unique – what we at IIN call bio-individuality – and this uniqueness informs the foods and lifestyle practices that will work for each client. By learning how to tune in and listen to your body, wellness coaches provide the safe space for clients to explore this; you will become the expert on what makes you feel amazing as well as what makes you feel depleted.
Health and wellness coaches do not prescribe specific meal plans nor workout or lifestyle regimens. Some wellness coaches are also nutritionists, dietitians, or personal trainers, but a wellness coach’s scope of practice is to provide clients with a holistic perspective on health, focusing on not just food but also other areas of life that can impact wellness, such as your career satisfaction, the quality of your relationships, and how you feel in your home environment (we call these areas “primary food”). This holistic approach to health and well-being is what sets health and wellness coaches apart from other wellness experts and is part of what makes their work so valuable and effective.
What do you need to do to become a wellness coach?
There are many routes you can take to become a health and wellness coach, and what route you choose will depend on multiple factors, such as your ultimate career goal, your budget, how much time you have to dedicate to a health coaching program, and whether the program requires a degree or provides a path for you to pursue higher education.
Because the health and wellness coaching industry has grown exponentially in the last few years, one of the most important things to look out for in a training program is credibility. This means looking at their partnerships and affiliations with other organizations as well as whether they have any external accountability for making sure the curriculum is accurate and up to date.
If certification as a coach is important to you, check to see if the training program provides a legitimate path to certification. Many training programs will claim that graduating from their program alone will allow you to call yourself “certified,” but the growth of the health coaching field has necessitated stricter guidelines around who can call themselves a certified coach.
The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) was established with the goal of creating a gold standard for health and wellness coaching education, which includes the creation of a national certification exam to demonstrate competency in the field of health coaching. Many schools and training programs are approved by the NBHWC, which means graduates from those programs can go on to apply to become eligible for certification.
What does a wellness coach do?
Health and wellness coaches work with clients one on one and in group settings with the same overall intention: helping clients lead healthy lifestyles and accomplish their health goals.
When working with clients individually, wellness coaches can conduct sessions in person or virtually. Hosting virtual sessions gives health and wellness coaches more flexibility in their schedule and broadens their potential client base as they can coach clients located anywhere! Group sessions can also be conducted in person or virtually, and participants will likely have common health goals so that the coaching is consistent across the group.
Wellness coaches can also work in gyms, health food stores, wellness centers, schools, corporations, and even doctor’s offices and hospitals. Wellness coaching is the perfect service to complement personal training, nutritionist/dietitian services, and doctor’s visits because they can help their clients implement the diet and lifestyle goals and instructions provided to them, breaking down each goal into manageable, actionable steps.
Overall, the experience of working with a wellness coach is collaborative as the coach provides a personalized and holistic approach to health and the client is able to explore this approach with a supportive and motivating guide.
How do wellness coaches help?
If you’re wondering how you could help someone by becoming a wellness coach, consider the following:
- Do you love talking about health and wellness?
- Do you find yourself coaching friends and family through food and lifestyle choices?
- Do you feel called to help others find their passion for living a healthy lifestyle?
- Do you feel called to share your own experience with transforming your health?
- Do you want to help others tap into their strengths?
- Do you want to help others reclaim their health and strive for work-life balance?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of the above, then becoming a wellness coach is right for you! Health and wellness coaches have tapped into their calling to help others achieve great health and realize they already have within them the motivation and power to transform their lives and their health; they just need a little guidance and support!
Popular reasons for hiring a wellness coach include a desire to:
- Increase energy and motivation
- Lose weight
- Learn better stress-management techniques
- Prioritize self-care
- Eat healthier
- Exercise more
- Improve relationship with themselves and others
- Create work-life balance
- Increase positivity
- Reduce overwhelm and understand what’s best for them
The typical amount of time for someone to work with a wellness coach is between two and six months. It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, or for a new behavior to become automatic. That is a little over two months, but many health and wellness coaches encourage working with clients for longer than just the time it takes to create one new habit because clients are often trying to create many new habits. IIN teaches students how to create a 6-Month Program, which gives coaches ample time and opportunity to help clients establish healthy and sustainable habits for long-term well-being.
How to find the right wellness coach for you
You’re ready to find a wellness coach – so where do you look? Are you looking for someone who focuses on one particular area of wellness, such as smoking cessation, diabetes management, or women’s health? Many health and wellness coaches focus on certain health issues, so who you choose will depend on your health goals. If finding someone who specializes in a particular area is important to you, be sure to check their credentials and educational background to determine if they are qualified to coach in those areas.
If you’re looking for a wellness coach to help you implement general health and lifestyle improvements, check their training program credentials (see above about becoming a coach). You can also ask questions about their training, such as how long their training program was, whether they had practice coaching, and if they pursued certification through a third-party organization.
When it comes to finding someone to help you get on track with your health goals, take your time! It’s an important decision, and you want to find someone you’re comfortable working with. You may also want to consider pursuing a health and wellness coaching career yourself! If you already know you want to transform your health, who better to help guide you than you? A wellness coach training program can provide you with the tools to better understand your unique health needs and how to best address them to become the happiest, healthiest version of yourself.