What is a Wellness Coach?

by on August 4, 2008
in coaching

These days most people know what it means to be a personal trainer.  In fact, more than one million people now employ personal trainers, creating a $2 billion industry that barely existed 10 years ago.  When the word “coach” is used, however, images of whistles and clipboards merge with memories of high school football and Ben Gay.

Coaching as a profession now applies to more than just sports teams, and you can now hire a coach to help you with much more than your jump shot.  Professional life and business coaching emerged in the early 1990’s with roots in applied behavioral science, where it has been shown that one-on-one interaction between coach and client is one of the most effective approaches to use when assisting people to make and maintain positive changes in their lives and businesses.

“Wellness coaching” is a subset of life coaching, where the focus is on the health and wellbeing of the client. Wellness coaches work with individuals to help them improve all areas of wellness including fitness, nutrition, weight, stress, health, and management of the life issues that impact wellness. Wellness coaches are usually health professionals who have also completed wellness coach training and certifications.

In wellness coaching, a close relationship and partnership with a coach provides structure, accountability, expertise, and inspiration.  This enables the client to learn, grow, and develop beyond what s/he can do alone.  A wellness coach will use thoughtful assessments, inquiry, and active listening skills to help his or her client identify and clarify life priorities and values.  The coach and client then work collaboratively to connect those values with the positive behavioral changes that the client desires.  In this way, motivation to change becomes intrinsic, or coming from within the client herself rather than extrinsic, or coming from the environment.  Intrinsic motivation works…extrinsic motivation is hit or miss.


The first session with a wellness coach will result in the client coming up with a very detailed “wellness vision”… a picture of exactly what s/he imagines their best self to be.  This vision is then tied to the client’s deepest motivators, and long term behavioral goals are set that are in alignment with this vision.  After the “why” is fine-tuned, the “how” is addressed in great detail.  Potential obstacles to each desired behavior are discussed before they happen, and strategies to overcome them are developed.  The client is encouraged to remember and discuss how s/he used their particular strengths to overcome obstacles in the past, and to formulate ideas of how to use them successfully again.

Finally, at the end of this and each subsequent session, very small and defined goals are set by the client to be achieved by the next session.  The coach’s job here is to make sure the client stretches herself just enough to feel challenged by these weekly goals, but not so overwhelmed that she doesn’t accomplish them.  Weekly successes, small as they might be, are why this process works as well as it does.  Clients begin to feel accountable to themselves and their coaches. Their self-confidence and self-esteem grows with each success.  Before long, they are accomplishing more than they believed possible when they first started.


Do you have significant changes you want to make in one or more areas of your life?  Do you need to overhaul your eating patterns, or begin to make exercise a routine part of your day, rather than an afterthought?  Do you know that your stress coping mechanisms are not working, but you don’t have any idea what to do about it?  If so, a wellness coach might be for you.  You can find a wellness coach easily with your favorite search engine, but be careful. Make sure your coach-to-be is certified by a reputable program, such as Wellcoaches Corporation, in partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine.  Look for someone with expertise in your areas of concern.  Also, be aware that most coaches with provide a brief complimentary session to see if you both “click.”  Be sure to take advantage of this, because the relationship you develop with your coach must be a good one to foster growth and forward movement.

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