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What is an Integrative Health Coach?

What is an integrative health coach? As I sit here and ponder where to start writing, I can’t help but think about all the different times that I’ve been asked this question throughout my professional career. A lot of people are interested in finding an integrative health coach—but there are also a lot of misconceptions about what exactly an integrative health coach does.

I’ve been asked: “So are you like a life coach?”, “What exactly do you even do?” or “Can you give me a diet plan?”

In truth, integrative health coach is a new kind of job that did not exist until recent years, so it’s not surprising that there is some confusion. When I introduce myself to a new client, I designate a portion of our session strictly to defining my role in the coach-coachee relationship.

In short: an Integrative Health Coach helps people achieve a higher level of intellectual, social, physical, spiritual, occupational, and emotional well-being, specifically when change is difficult.

What I do when I am coaching patients

An integrative health coach is trained to approach patients with an open mind toward helping them clarify their goals and set their own path to reaching them. I do not tell you what to do, rather I ask questions to better understand what the particular roadblocks might be that are preventing you from reaching your goals for better health and wellness.

Though there is not a legally required, national certification standard like there is for other kinds of clinicians, there is an independent governing body called the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC), which defines a health and wellness coach as a partner to clients “seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness, and, thereby, wellbeing.”

The goal of a health coach is then to support clients' “belief in their capacity for change,” while “honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life.”

My responsibility is to facilitate a motivating atmosphere through the use of different tools, including visioning, goal-setting, mindfulness, and accountability.

What health coaches do NOT do

A major component of my job is to keep the client in the driver’s seat so they can discover their own answers, create their own possibilities, and determine what works best for them.

I do not give nutritional advice and I do not prescribe medicine (though Dignity Integrative founder Dr. Angelo Falcone does both those things!). My job is to help clarify what the client wants to achieve, encourage self-discovery, and hold the client accountable for their actions. A big part of my work depends on the client's desire and willingness to change while also keeping a deep understanding in the importance of meeting our clients where they are.

The integrative health coach scope of work

The Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I trained, publishes its own standards for an integrative health coach’s scope of work. And while there is sometimes a fine line between being prescriptive vs. empowering my clients, the scope of work does provide some additional guidance for what health coaches should or should not do.

For example, integrative health coaches can:

  • Provide support for clients to adhere to wellness goals

  • Explore with and/or guide clients to resources

  • Give general information about healthy nutritional choices, including statistical information from reputable sources

Meanwhile, integrative health coaches should NOT:

  • Give medical advice or counseling

  • Give specific herbal, nutritional, or exercise recommendations (at Dignity Integrative, these are provided by Dr. Falcone)

If you’re curious whether or not health and wellness coaching is the right fit for you, I am happy to speak with you on the phone and dig a little bit deeper into our services and how we may be able to help you. Or, you can request a free, 15-minute consultation via our website.

Teresa Rosa trained at the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) and holds an M.A. in Health and Wellness Coaching

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