What does a wellness coach do? (and what to look for when hiring a coach)

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Regarding coaching, there are a lot of different expectations that come up when talking about what a wellness coach does. I thought I’d share some insights about what it is that I actually do as a coach, things that I don’t or won’t do, and some things that you should keep in mind when you are looking to invest in a coach.

What is wellness coaching?

First, I think it would be helpful to define wellness coaching. In his book, Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, Dr. Michael Arloski writes the following-

…wellness coaching is the application of the principles and processes of professional life coaching to the goals of lifestyle improvement for higher levels of wellness. It is an alliance between a professional coach and a person (or persons) who, through the benefit of that relationship, seeks lasting lifestyle behavioral change.”

When people ask me what I do, I simple say that I support people (and sometimes groups) in making sustainable lifestyle and behavior changes. I take a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means taking into account the whole person. Some of the things I coach for include nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, and smoking cessation.

The benefits of working with a certified coach

There are lots of benefits to working with a certified wellness coach, including the following-

  • Support- We all have different levels and avenues of support in our life, including friends, family, co-workers, and partners. Support is critical when making big lifestyle or behavior changes. A coach is someone who you know is going to be on your team and walking side by side with you as you navigate through your challenges and goals.

  • Accountability- At the beginning of a coaching relationship, I ask clients how they want to be held accountable. Being held accountable for your goals and commitments can really help people with building consistency. Something else I always encourage is working on self-accountability and what that would look like for a person outside of the coaching relationship.

  • Perspective- I think that when we feel stuck or overwhelmed we tend to develop blinders. A coach can be a great “second set of eyes” to help you in exploring opportunities that might be right behind those blinders.

  • Clarity- More often than not, most people are aware of what their challenges are and how they don’t want to feel. I often get a long pause when I ask “what are you good at?” or “what do you want for yourself?” Working with a coach can allow you to get clarity on your strengths, identify what is going well, and create a big picture vision for your well-being.

What happens during coaching sessions with me

I call the very first coaching meeting the “Foundation Session.” During this meeting, and with the use of a few coaching tools, we will explore the following important details-

  • What it’s like to be you- In co-creating a relationship, it’s helpful to explore what it’s like to be you. This allows you to (hopefully) feel heard and understand, and allows the coach to have an idea of where you are coming from.

  • The Coaching Agreement- This outlines my responsibilities to you as your coach, and your responsibilities as a participant in the process. We also review the financial investment and define what the communication process will be outside of coaching.

  • Your Present Lifestyle- It’s important for both coach and client to have a good understanding of the way things are in the present with regard to your behaviors in different holistic wellness areas.

  • Your Readiness for Change- Knowing what a client is ready for and not ready for is an important step in goal setting and creating a plan. During this first session we will explore what you are ready to tackle and where you may need some support in getting ready.

  • Creating a Well-Life Vision- What does “You 2.0” look like? How would your life be different if you could make the changes that you desire? These are the types of things we will dive into in order to build your well-life vision.

  • Taking action- Even though we’ve just begun, I will work with you to start on a small goal that we will come back to during the next visit.

During subsequent sessions, I work with clients on goal setting, address any challenges that came up between our meetings, and explore the next steps.

Throughout our time together, you may be surprised to find that it is you who is setting the agenda and deciding what is best for you. This is the coach approach, because a coach understands that you are the expert on your own life. I am always happen to provide tips, suggestions, and resources, but ONLY after receiving your permission to do so. No-one likes unsolicited advice!

Where a coach works and who they work with

A wellness coach can work with individuals 1-1, with groups, in a clinical setting with other providers, and in a corporate wellness setting, supporting employees as part of a wellness benefits package.

And some, like me, do both! I provide 1-1 and group coaching through Living Well and Wild and I also work with a company part-time as an on-site health and wellness coach for their employees.

Things that I can’t do as a coach

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that people sometimes have different expectations when it comes to what they think happens in coaching. Since I’ve covered what I do as a coach, I’d also like to share some of the things that are outside my scope of practice as a coach.

  • Meal planning- I am not a Registered Dietician (RD) so I don’t have the qualifications to create individual meal plans. In coaching for nutrition, we would look at your current nutrition behaviors, identify any habits/behaviors that you’d like to change in that area, and co-create a plan to create sustainable change. If meal planning is what someone is looking for, I would definitely refer out to an RD.

  • Workout plans- In the same vein as above, I do not have any personal training certifications so I do not create exercise plans. If a client were interested in a specific workout, or had questions about different types of physical activity, I would refer to a personal trainer, or other clinical provider.

  • Therapy/Counseling- Although some coaching tools and resources may also be used in therapy/counseling, they are two different spaces and operate under different models. While therapy and counseling can delve into past trauma, coaching is very forward looking. If I feel that we are venturing into therapy or counseling territory during a session, I would gently guide the client back to the present moment and refer to a qualified therapist or counselor.

I do want to also mention that there are some coaches who wear “two hats.” For example, it’s very common to have Registered Nurses or Registered Dieticians who are also certified wellness coaches. In this instance, it’s important that you let a client know which “hat” you are wearing when you’re speaking with them.

What to look for when hiring a coach

I think qualifications are really important when it comes to coaching, especially since it’s a term that’s not regulated (although I see that changing in the future!). You definitely want a coach that has gone through an International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited program. My certification comes from Real Balance Global Wellness Services and there are continuing education requirements I have to meet every two years in order to remain certified. You can use this link to find out which training programs are ICF accredited. I think it’s worth mentioning that there is a movement towards standardization through the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. You can now apply to sit for an exam to become a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. This will ensure that all coaches who bear that title have minimum training and education standards. (I am excited to be sitting for this board in June!)

Just like it’s any other provider, it’s also important to find someone who is a good fit for you! Usually most coaches will offer a complimentary introduction session so you can have the opportunity to meet them and ask any questions you might have.

Now I’m curious! Have you ever worked with a coach before? Whether that was life, business, wellness, or executive coaching, I’m interested to know what your experience was like!

The Book of Extraordinary Things

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"We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have power to imagine better." - J.K. Rowling

I so, so excited to share with you a project that I have been working on for the past 6 months. I have actually been sharing a little over on Instagram and the LWW Facebook Community but I also wanted to make an official announcement here on the blog.

I have created a daily journal called “The Book of Extraordinary Things” (BET) with prompts to inspire self-awareness, positivity, and well-being. The BET was made for the introspective adventurer and was designed to evoke a sense of wonder about our daily lives. I was personally inspired by the fantasy tales of ordinary individuals accomplishing extraordinary feats and the books and scripts that hold these tales.

The Book is extraordinary because we, as humans, are extraordinary. The book is alive because we are alive. Each high and low, victory and defeat, and all the spaces in-between are opportunities for the author to decide how their story will be written.

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Journaling has always been a habit that I’ve wanted to include in my daily routine, but, even as a creative, I have been overwhelmed with how much time it may take. I personally wanted something that I could use that would have prompts built in and also include some free space. Structure for guidance and flexibility for creativity. It was also important that this project be aesthetically pleasing to my right brain- the result being something that you might find in a rare books collection, on a shelf at Hogwarts, or in the well-worn bag of an explorer. 

The first section of the BET is comprised of a set of exploratory questions which were designed to support the author in creating a detailed picture of where they are beginning their quest. There is also a blank space to bring visons, goals, and dreams to life. Following the self-reflective questions, there is a section for short, medium, and long-term goal setting. These questions ask the author to describe what they might like to be celebrating in three months, six months, and one year.

The daily journal pages are composed of three parts. First, there are a series of 5 prompts that are based around the PERMA model in positive psychology- Positivity, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. Although there is not a specific prompt for Vitality, there is blank space to create a tracking method for physical metrics such as water intake or daily movement. Below the prompts is a space to track your mood. The daily journal pages are intended to last for three months. On a page facing the prompts there is a blank section entitled “Field Notes.” This space is for authors to use for drawing, writing, collaging, or tracking. Below the “Field Notes” there is a structured “To-Do” list. The “To-Do” list area is made up of the top three most important quests of the day and subsections for AM and PM tasks. The final section of the BET consists of several blank “Field Notes” pages for authors to use for notes, projects, artistic endeavors, to-do lists, or anything else for which they might need room to create.

I firmly believe that there is a kind of everyday magic in both the ordinary and extraordinary. I hope that the BET can be a container for this magic and a creative outlet for the authors who wield it.  

                                                                                                                                     the book of extraordinary things 1.0

                                                                                                                                     the book of extraordinary things 1.0

The book is currently in a prototype phase as I work on final content edits and layout adjustments. In addition to the journal, I am developing stickers to enhance creativity and Quest Cards- a deck of cards with small, additional quests to build courage, confidence, curiosity, hope, and resilience. The final version will have a black vegan leather or linen cover with gold foil. It will also include a ribbon and pocket in the back cover (perfect for holding your Quest cards, receipts, pictures, etc.) In order to bring the BET experience to life, I will be running a Kickstarter campaign sometime during the fall of this year (September/October). For more information and updates on the Book of Extraordinary Things, you can follow me over on Instagram, Facebook, or sign up for the Living Well and Wild Monthly Newsletter.

 

 

Getting Back on Track

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As a health and wellness professional, there is always a low-level of pressure that I put on myself to make sure that I'm "walking the walk" so to speak. I would say I try my hardest to live by example- making sure that I get enough movement during the day, eating fruits, veggies, and whole grains (promoting a vegan lifestyle), and allowing time for self-care.

Lately though, I've been feeling a little off track with my physical fitness. I'm lucky that I fence 2-3 times a week and walk with my dog every day which usually helps me meet my 10k steps. However, I set a goal at the beginning of the year to be consistent with a strength training program and there have been a lot of bumps in the road.

I've been giving it some thought over the past few days (thanks to my fellow CAPP-sters for coaching the coach) and I came to a few realizations.

  1. I'm very hard on myself. This is something I'm working on. I'm trying to appreciate my body in its current state and being thankful for all of the things it allows me to do.
  2. I keep trying to stick to a "program" of some sort instead of just allowing myself to do whatever works for me on a particular day/time. I already get a lot of cardio with fencing and walking with my dog so I really wanted to have a strength training routine to complement those things. The program I was doing at home used weights but wasn't the heavier lifting I was looking for.
  3. I need to spend a bit more time in the preparation stage- making sure my workout clothes are clean and laid out, having shoes that are comfortable, and keeping my workout area clean and tidy.

I know how important physical fitness is and I'm a pretty motivated person. I actually like working out if you can believe it. It was challenging to figure out what was getting in the way of my success and it was really helpful to pick apart the process. When all is said and done I don't care if I start and stop a hundred times with a hundred different workouts, as long as I never stop permanently.

The reason I'm sharing this is because the road to well-being is rarely a linear path. There may be bumps, curves, and obstacles that get in your way. The important thing is to never lose sight of where you are going. Pull over if you need to, re-orient yourself, and enjoy the journey.