I find that there is a lot of confusion among the general public about what exactly health coaching is. And to be honest, I often find myself at a loss for words when trying to explain.
The health coaching I do is based on the principles of motivational interviewing and is centered around behavior change. The premise of motivational interviewing is that a person will struggle to enact real and lasting change – in any life domain – until they are connected to their reasons for wanting to change.
Motivational interviewing then is a process of connecting people to what they really want. In my coaching practice, I utilize deep listening skills, powerful questions, reflections, and other tools, to help my clients uncover their truest values, intrinsic strengths, and deepest motivations.
With that as a starting place, change is possible.
What does that have to do with health?
That doesn’t mean that health is not a key focus of my coaching practice.
Most of my clients come to me with some kind of health consideration and some idea of what they need to do to solve it. Perhaps they have a set of recommendations from their health care provider. Or they’ve read a book on ancestral nutrition. Or they have a straightforward problem that they want to solve – insomnia, weight gain, high blood sugar, or digestive issues. What they need from me is guidance, education, support, accountability. They need someone on their side.
While I am not a doctor (I neither diagnose illness nor prescribe treatment) it’s often the case that helping a client troubleshoot their diet and get their lifestyle habits on point will either clear up chronic health problems or else uncover underlying issues that can be referred out for expert medical attention.
Already in my short coaching career, I’ve helped several clients clear up chronic health issues without having to put out big money to see a functional medicine doctor.
But health is multidimensional, and while my clients typically start out working with diet, nutrition, or exercise routines, the coaching process often takes us into broader domains.
Health coaching is life coaching and vice versa
I often find myself coaching clients on their career trajectory, their life or spiritual path, relationship issues, creative projects and productivity habits, parenting, stress management, work-life balance – an endless combination of issues. And while these things are all ostensibly “life” issues, I can tell you from personal experience that what goes on in one’s personal life undoubtedly has an effect on one’s heath. And vice versa: what one puts into their body, how one takes care of their body, has rippling implications through every domain of life.
All of which begs the question, what is more important: physical health or psychological/spiritual health? It’s a classic chicken or egg type question.
The answer is that each creates the other on a continuum. There’s no need to put one before the other. Good health coaching easily addresses both.
Who do you want to be?
No matter what issues a client comes to me with, I like to start with visioning work. Who are you? What are your strengths, your values, your deeper motivations? What would you do if money were no object? If everything breaks your way, what would your life look like one year, two years, five years from now?
Once we have a vision, we can work from a context of possibility. We can dig into the nitty gritty details of making a plan, creating new dietary and lifestyle habits. We can create real and lasting change – a path – with a clear eye on where that change is leading.
One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Arnaud Desjardins, used to say, “Discipline is remembering what it is you really want.” Behavior change in any domain requires discipline. Reclaiming one’s health requires discipline.
Health coaching – motivational interviewing – starts and ends with what you really want.