I want to share with you my story of being a health coach and the stigma around my career. Coaching is something we see everywhere nowadays and has taken the health and wellness world by storm. There are all kinds of coaches, from health coaches, wellness coaches, life coaches, relationship coaches, nutrition coaches, and the list goes on. Coaches are employed everywhere, from businesses to help promote corporate wellness to doctors' offices and hospitals. In the US alone, the coaching industry has boomed from non-existent to having an estimated industry worth of 15 billion dollars. With the coaching industry growing so quickly, you have to ask yourself why?
Let's clear things up.
There are A LOT of misconceptions around coaching and the coaching industry.
When you think of a coach, several different images may come to mind, for example, Instagram models and motivational speakers who promise they can change your life if you pay them x amount of money and buy all their merchandise. That is NOT what coaching is. Yes, anyone can say that they are a coach because there are no state or federal regulations around coaching. This makes some people unsure about coaching as a whole, and what makes legitimate coaches like me, frustrated. Some people out there consider themselves "coaches" when in reality, they have no background, practice, or education, to technically do so. But it is essential to understand that this is not everyone in the coaching industry. Most coaches follow strict industry standards, scope of practice guidelines, and can help you change your life. So how can you tell them apart from the people who are just trying to make a quick buck?
Industry standards are constantly evolving.
Because coaching is a relatively new field in the health and wellness world, industry standards are constantly advancing. National and international organizations help define these standards and provide proper education and training for coaches. For example, the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches, International Coaching Federation, Board of Certified Coaches, Association of Coaches, and others. These organizations offer education, credentials, membership, and continuing education to professional coaches. So, one way to determine if the coach you want to work with is legitimate is to ask them what their credentials are. Did they get their coaching education from a school accredited by one of the influential coaching organizations? Another critical question to ask is how much education and training do they have. Some professional coaches, apart from others, have post-graduate education and training in closely related fields like counseling, social work, psychology, nutrition, etc. The tools and skills coaches use when working with clients are something that individuals with post-graduate education or training can learn in their specialized area of study. This is why sometimes, for example, you see therapists who may not be certified in coaching offering coaching or nurses who offer health coaching. These people have the education needed to do so.
Okay, so what is coaching, and who is it for?
Let's borrow some definitions from the people setting those industry standards we talked about. The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as "Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching is a client-driven process" (ICF, 2021). The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches adds, "Health & wellness coaches partner with clients seeking to enhance their well-being through self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values. In the course of their work, health & wellness coaches display an unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, honoring the fact that each client is an expert on their own life while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental" (NBHWC, 2021).
As you can tell by the definitions, coaching is a fantastic field. Working with a true coaching professional can lead to sustainable positive change, growth, and accomplishing your goals. Coaches are professionals who walk alongside you and help you break the barriers you face in gaining better health and wellness. Coaches are there to help you discover your strengths and creative problem-solving. Not to be replaced with therapy, coaching is an excellent supplement to someone in therapy, or can be used by someone who doesn't need therapy but just needs a little guidance and help with working on their health and wellness or another specific area of their life.
Okay, time for my story. Every day I face the stigma of being a coach because of the people we talked about earlier, who are self-proclaimed expert coaches and are selling you everything they can. Now, I do want to clarify that not all of these self-proclaimed coaches are bad. Sometimes lived experience can make for great peer support and guidance, however, it's important to be cautious when working with these types of coaches because you are unique and your journey should never be compared to theirs. So if you find yourself working with a coach who does that or takes time to constantly talk about themselves please save your money and run.
Back to my story. I knew I wanted to become a coach when working at my internship while in my graduate program. I had always worked in the mental health field, specifically in crisis counseling. One day I was talking to one of my clients who told me about the work they did with their life coach and how much it has helped them along with their therapy. I was inspired by what they shared with me about their coach. I also talked to my clients about the integration of physical health and wellness and how they are interconnected, and I began taking a holistic (whole-self) approach to my work. I knew that my values and my work with my clients were heavily based on a coaching approach. So, I added a year's worth of credit hours to my almost completed course work in my master's program, where I was able to focus on cognitive change, nutrition, health, and wellness, and graduated with my MA in Human Services Counseling Health and Wellness. Next, I enrolled myself in an NBHWC accredited school and completed a master's health coaching program. Coaching is my passion, and I truly believe that everyone can benefit from it. I am sharing this all with you because coaching deserves to be discussed, and true professional coaches deserve respect and credit for the work they do.
Coaching is a legitimate field that can truly help change lives and improve health and wellness.
Thank you for reading this blog post because in doing so, you help clear up the misconceptions around what coaching is and support real professional coaches who genuinely make an impact each and every day on the lives of their clients.