A health coach is a health professional who uses evidence-based conversation and strategies to engage clients (also known as patients) in behavior change that improves their health. They use motivational interviewing techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and wellness coaching methodologies to help clients overcome challenges like finding time in their schedules for exercise, eating well, and sleeping soundly.
Health coaches may work in clinics alongside physicians as they support and facilitate doctors’ orders for their patients, or they can run their own private practice or be part of a corporate wellness program. Regardless of where they are employed, the core duties and responsibilities of a health coach are the same. They meet with their clients one on one, either in person or via video chat platforms like SKYPE and Zoom to discuss health goals, targets, and the development of a healthy lifestyle plan. They also have the option of conducting what are called Group Coaching Sessions, which involve groups of 6-8 or more individuals at a time and focus on creating a community of individuals working together to achieve their goals for healthy living.
While some health coaches have a bachelor’s degree in a subject like nutrition or exercise science, this is not necessarily a requirement to become a health coach. However, earning an undergraduate degree can help learners hone their interpersonal communication skills and develop their understanding of the reasoning behind certain practices. For example, a nutrition-focused coaching program will help future coaches understand how macronutrients impact the human body and how to effectively plan exercise programs for their clients.
The primary goal of a health coach is to get people excited and motivated about making positive changes to their health. To do this, they must build a relationship of trust with their clients. This trust is achieved by building a personalized plan with the client’s unique circumstances and priorities in mind. The coach can then provide support, accountability, and encouragement to help the client take consistent action toward their goals.
While states do not require licensure or certification for health coaches to practice, these professionals without these credentials can’t advertise themselves as registered or certified. A health coach is typically paid on a per-client basis, but the amount of money they earn depends on their experience level, whether or not they have a formal education, and the type of coaching program they attended. For example, those who participated in a graduate-level, certificate program often earn more than those who completed a short, self-paced online course. This is because the former have proven their competence through an evaluation process.