What a Health Coach Really Does (Hint: It's Not Telling You What to Do)

Corey Cenate is a Wellness Health Coach at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Defined by W. Timothy Gallwey, coaching is “the art of creating an environment through conversation and a way of being, that facilitates the process by which a person can move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.” Here’s what we actually do…

For people working on goals, often times they are being told what to do. Let’s be honest for a moment. We all know what we need to do (e.g., increase our physical activity, eat healthier, increase water consumption, get more sleep, and reduce stress), but that’s not the issue. The issue many face is how to get from point A (navigate through B-Y) to point Z.

Whenever I think about my role as a health coach, I always think of one social media meme in particular. The one that has the title of the job at the top and then what follows are several depictions of what the role is.

Here are the five descriptions I came up with:

  • What my friends think I do – My friends think I am at a desk all day, meeting with clients, telling them the same thing over and over — what they NEED to do.
  • What my mom thinks I do – My mom thinks I help solve everyone’s problems, make everyone happy, every day…every hour.
  • What society thinks I do – Society thinks a health coach is a life coach, or a coach who is helping people navigate their careers, life transitions, and other parts of their lives.
  • What my clients think I do – A majority of clients come to me thinking I’m going to give them a nutrition plan, workout plan, tell them what to do and ask why they didn’t do 1,000 sit-ups today.
  • What I actually do – Let’s use a chart to show you what I do and don’t do.  

Health Coaches Don’t…

  1. Analyze problems
  2. Give advice
  3. Prescribe solutions
  4. Recommend goals
  5. Develop strategies
  6. Teach new skills
  7. Provide education

Health Coaches Do…

  1. Accept you and meet you where you are in your life.
  2. Ask you to take charge.
  3. Guide you in mindful thinking and doing work that builds confidence.
  4. Help you tap into your innate fighting spirit.
  5. Assist you in drawing a personal blueprint for your goals.
  6. Harness your strengths to overcome obstacles and reframe obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow.
  7. Enable you to build a support team, inspire and challenge you to go beyond what you would do alone.

So now we know a little more about what a health coach is. If you are interested in learning more or to seek a health coach, visit this web link.

Corey Cenate is an Employee Wellness Health Coach at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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