What A Health Coach Is NOT (And Why You Should Care)
We often talk about being a transformational nutrition health coach and firmly believe in connecting the science of nutrition, with psychology and spirituality to create a personalized solution for your clients.
That can sound a little intimidating, right?
Well, keep reading. Below we’ll specify what a health coach ISN’T so you don’t have to feel like you need to have all the answers and carry all the weight.
A HEALTH COACH IS NOT A THERAPIST
Coaching is NOT therapy. Many people confuse coaching with therapy.
Coaching is focused on attaining goals and helping people become their best self. Therapy is focused on solving serious mental health issues.
Therapy often involves instilling hope in people who have lost all hope and helping people fight self-destructive urges.
Coaching is all about elevating and making people better and function at a higher level. Therapy is about fixing and mending a someone who is “broken” who desperately needs help.
Therapy should only be done by trained mental health workers.
However, it’s important to understand that many people will work with a coach and a therapist simultaneously. They will work with a therapist to try to fix up the broken bits while working with a coach to help propel their life higher.
Imagine a woman who is struggling with her weight. She may go to a therapist to deal with the underlying depression issues from childhood that contribute to this issue while working with you to help rework her environment, habits, and behaviors to support her goals.
And it’s always important to recognize that you can refer your clients out to a therapist if they need it or you feel that their issues are beyond your expertise.
A HEALTH COACH DOES NOT GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE
Now this one is especially important; coaches are NOT medical professionals. Coaches do not give medical advice. There are stringent rules about this and not following these guidelines can get you into legal trouble with the FDA.
Health coaches should never offer any health claims that claim to cure or diagnose a person. These are roles for medical professionals.
Coaches also do NOT give prescriptions, medical assessments, or analyze test results. You will educate them so they make their own decisions as to the protocol they will follow.
Coaches also don’t use medical jargon. Jargon is things that the average person wouldn’t understand without looking it up. And as a coach, you should be all about communicating things to your clients in ways that they can easily understand and implement.
Use of jargon or technical terms works against the goal of educating and increasing the knowledge and understanding of your clients.
Your recommendations may lead to someone getting care from a licensed medical practitioner, but it should NOT substitute for medical care.
A HEALTH COACH DOES NOT MAKE CLAIMS TO HEAL
A really important note to consider – even when you’re making posts online, in chat rooms, on your Facebook page, and also in private groups – this can be seen as giving professional medical advice. You just need to be really careful about your wording here.
Example: Someone tells you about foot fungus, and you say “you can cure that with tea tree oil.” This is NOT the way to go.
It may seem innocent enough. But the role you’re taking on as a coach entails that people will see that as legitimate and professional medical advice. If they do that and have complications, they may try to sue you for malpractice!! And no one wants to mess with that!
So here are a few better ways to say that: “I’ve read a lot of research about tea tree oil being beneficial for foot fungus.” Or “I know a few people who swear by using tea tree oil.” Or “I know many people find tea tree oil to be useful for this issue.”
Do you see the differences in language here? In the first instance, you’re saying it can “cure” them or “fix” their problems” whereas these last few statements just make suggestions based on your knowledge.
A HEALTH COACH IS NOT CONSULTING
Consulting may seem like the same thing as coaching, but it’s not. Consulting is more about offering advice and solutions to problems, rather than questioning and exploring the individual issues that the client brings.
Example: A “weight loss consultant” would offer their clients advice on the best way to lose weight and try to sell products that support the one that they advise the client to follow.
You’ll find many “weight loss consultants” working for specific companies such as metabolic research centers, weight loss centers, etc..
Any advice given is normally the same that they give to multiple clients, and the client works on these goals alone to achieve their goals.
A “weight loss coach” is someone who is there each step of the way, asking questions to take you deeper into your motivation and goals, discovering the motivation for change (and the motivation to stay the same).
A “weight loss coach” doesn’t typically work in conjunction with a specific company or diet that they are selling. Instead, they work with what’s best for the client and individually craft their recommendations and educational advice.
The toolkit of the consultant has more “answers” than “questions” whereas coaching is more about questioning and listening, and helping the client explore their own answers to questions.
A HEALTH COACH IS NOT A CHEERLEADER
Although cheerleading can be part of successful coaching, it only plays a small role in coaching.
Think of it this way – your role as a coach is not to sit on the sidelines saying “hooray! Great job!” Instead, your role is to get in there, ask questions, really delve deep with the client, and challenge them when they’re not living up to their potential.
It’s also still very important to celebrate successes with a client. That can be one of the most impactful things you can do. It will help to maintain their motivation and transformation.
A HEALTH COACH IS NOT A MENTOR
Coaching is not a mentorship. Mentoring is a long-term relationship, whereas coaching is often shorter term.
Coaching is focused on goals, and mentoring is focused on the relationship.
Mentorship is often long-term, often is unpaid, and is focused exclusively on the relationship. The goals are different in mentorship and coaching.
A coach is there to challenge and delve deeply into the client. A mentor is there to support, encourage, and affirm the client.
Mentors often advise whereas coaches should help clients explore and discover.
Hopefully, these points painted a clearer picture of what a health coach indeed isn’t. As a coach, you will play a vital role in a clients life, but you can’t play every character.
If you’d like to read more about what roles you will play as a transformational nutrition health coach, check out that post HERE.