Understanding the Role of a Health Coach

People want to be healthy more than ever before. The problem is most people don’t know where—or how—to start. One way to start your wellness journey is to find a health coach who can help you reach your goals.

Hiring a health coach also will help you wade through the noise and develop a wellness routine that suits your lifestyle. Find out what to expect from a health coach so you can determine if hiring one is right for you.

What Is a Health Coach?

Health coaches are experts in helping you reach your health and wellness goals. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, improve self-care, focus on nutrition, start exercising more, or improve your quality of life, a health coach can help you create a plan and make it happen.

Health and wellness coaches use motivational interviewing and evidence-based approaches to empower you to take ownership, accountability, and leadership in your quest for well-being. They also help you identify areas that need improvement, develop a game plan, talk you through it, and encourage you along the way. Essentially, they’re your personal cheerleader.

You can find health coaches working alongside physicians or other health professionals in a healthcare setting. Their role is to provide a more holistic approach to medicine. Other health coaches may work in a community setting, in the digital space, or as individual providers.

Services Provided by Health Coaches

To truly benefit from what a health coach offers, you’ll need to understand what they’re capable of providing. Here’s what most health coaches can assist with:

  • Diet and nutrition
  • Exercise, movement, and sleep
  • Spirituality insights
  • Business and professional development
  • Relationship building
  • Social skill development
  • Occupational wellness
  • Financial stability
  • Mental and emotional health
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Think of a health coach as someone who helps you refine all aspects of your life. Your health coach may communicate with you daily or weekly, via telephone, in person, by text, email, or video.

They also will help you overcome barriers wherever you’re struggling. A good health coach is an excellent listener and provides support for whatever your goals may be. Your health coach is your partner in crime and they are there for you until your goal is reached.

Qualifications and Certifications of Health Coaches

The term ‘health coach’ is unregulated. For that reason, it’s important to ensure the providers you’re considering have the qualifications and certifications necessary to be a proficient health coach. Because some certification programs offer a focus on specific areas (for example nutrition), it’s a good idea to identify your own needs before choosing a health coach.

To be a health coach, you do not need a university degree. However, many health coach certifications are affiliated with colleges and have educational partnerships that qualify coursework and award college credits.

Training to become a health coach encompasses motivational interviewing, behavior change theories, health, fitness, nutrition promotion, goal setting, stress management, and coaching concepts.

Examples of Health Goals

A health coach is not a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. While your primary healthcare provider or physician provides a diagnosis and medical plan, a health coach can guide and support you through it, depending on your needs. But you do not need a medical condition to employ the services of a health coach. Here are some examples of health goals addressed by health coaches:

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  • Weight loss
  • Stress reduction
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Smoking cessation
  • Quality of life improvement
  • Exercise
  • Emotional and psychological health
  • Financial health

Tips for Finding a Reputable Health Coach

Choosing a health coach can be a difficult task. The number of qualified professionals is growing by the second. Here’s how to find a reputable health coach without feeling frustrated.

  • Reflect on your needs. Take some time to determine what your goals and expectations are. There are many types of health coaches out there, so figuring out why you’re seeking the expertise of a health coach can reduce the pool of coaches to choose from.
  • Determine your budget. Many insurance providers do not cover the cost of a health coach. Therefore, you’ll need to determine how much money you want to invest. Most health coaches charge between $50 to $300 per session. Some will also offer packages, memberships, or discounts.
  • Look at certifications. When considering a coach, look into the certification they have earned. Is it from an accredited program? This will ensure you choose a coach who has received the training and expertise needed to provide you with quality care.
  • Assess compatibility. Get on the phone with potential coaches. Ask questions and pay attention to how compatible they are with you and your wellness goals. Many coaches offer a free discovery call for this reason.
  • Evaluate location and availability. Where is the coach located? Do you prefer virtual sessions or in-person meetings? How long are the sessions and how often do you prefer to meet? Finding a coach that is flexible and convenient will help you maintain that coach/client relationship.
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Investing in a health coach is an exciting investment into your well-being, and helps send you on your way to reaching your health and wellness goals. But, it’s easy to get caught up in the desire to make changes. Take a step back and assess whether a potential health coach is qualified to provide evidence-based care or if they’re actually selling gimmicks.

There is nothing quick about health coaching. A reputable health coach will be honest about what you can expect from the coaching relationship and won’t try to sell you something. Your healthcare provider may be a great resource and even have referrals to reputable health coaches in your area. Interview as many as you need until you find one that fits.

By Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN

Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is a sports and pediatric dietitian, the owner of Nutrition by Shoshana, and is the author of “Carb Cycling for Weight Loss.” Shoshana received her B.S in dietetics and nutrition from Florida International University. She’s been writing and creating content in the health, nutrition, and fitness space for over 15 years and is regularly featured in Oxygen Magazine,, and more.

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