Wellness Coaching Is Succeeding Because Wellness Is Succeeding

Univ. of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where the National Wellness Conference is held.

Analysis of a field of service, like wellness coaching, is always tricky. How do we know how well it is being received, how much it is growing, etc.? The best test is the market demand, and we are definitely seeing that with The Wellness Coach Training Institute (http://realbalance.com/) as we grow. Another way to find the pulse to put one’s finger on is to attend relevant national conferences and see the interest there. July 13-19 we attended and presented at The National Wellness Conference (http://www.nationalwellness.org/index.php?id_tier=90) in Wisconsin and found that both wellness in general and wellness coaching are being enthusiastically received.

Conference attendance was up this year over the last two years, an indicator of improved conference planning and marketing, and an improving economy. The extreme need for savings in healthcare costs has combined with solid, demonstrated ROI for comprehensive wellness programs to drive a vigorous desire to develop and support wellness programs. One of the students in my pre-conference wellness coach certificate program had a concrete example of this. While her healthcare company had decided to lay off twenty-five of it’s mid-level managers across the company, it hired three new employees for the wellness program!

Four of us from The National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches (http://ncchwc.org/) presented a panel on our progress to date. My share of the presentation was to show the quick evolution of coaching and wellness coaching. As I prepared two things really struck me: 1) How astonishingly fast the whole coaching field has developed, and 2) how both the wellness field as a whole and wellness coaching in particular both bloomed and accelerated at about the same time.

This foundational book wasn’t published until 1998

Coaching is young stuff!

The call on when the life-coaching field emerged is a bit fuzzy, but most people agree that it was Thomas Leonard who started putting it on the map in 1988. That’s only twenty-four years ago! Check out this rapid development:

1988 – Leonard comes on the scene, taking business consulting into the realm of coaching.
1992 – Leonard founds Coach U (Coach University), and Laura Whitworth and Karen & Henry Kimsey-House found CTI (Coaches Training Institute).
1995 – The International Coaching Federation is founded.
1998- “Therapist U” (became ILCT) founded by Pat Williams as many switch from psychology professions to coaching.
Mid to late 1990’s Life Coach Training Accelerates
Late 1990’s – First articles on wellness coaching appear in Wellness Management, and first presentations are made at The National Wellness Conference by myself.
Early 2000’s Wellness Coach Training Programs emerge, Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Wellcoaches, etc.
2005 – Wellness Coaching seen as providing a “Paradigm Shift” in the entire wellness field. Wellness Programs get traction through great ROI

Dr. Arloski’s ground-breaking book – 2007

2006 Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change is written, published in 2007.
2009 Coaching Psychology Manual is published.

The late 2000’s see rapid adoption of wellness coaching methods by the medical world, disease management companies, EAP’s, and others.

2011 – Wellness Coaching mentioned over 30 times in Affordable Care Act.

The Whole Wellness Movement

Since my first attendance at The National Wellness Conference in 1979 I’ve seen the evolution of this field go from a criticized “fad” to an ROI juggernaut. For years as wellness programs were taken on by innovative organizations they were often on shaky ground. When the budget ax fell it were these programs that were often among the first to go. The people responsible for the purse strings were rightfully looking for evidence that they worked and the new field was scrambling to provide just that.

I’ll never forget being at an Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference (http://healthpromotionconference.com/) in the early 2000’s and hearing Kenneth Pelletier address this issue with a startling proclamation. Essentially his words were “If people are criticizing your wellness efforts by saying that the literature doesn’t support wellness, then say to them – Well you don’t know the literature! ”. Larry Chapman and others have been champions of showing what Larry likes to call “Proof Positive ROI” (http://www.welcoa.org/freeresources/pdf/chapman_incent_incentives.pdf) that comprehensive wellness programs have been consistently showing 3-10 dollars saved for every dollar spent on wellness.

It took until around 2005-2006 for this all to sink in. At this same time, wellness coaching took off! The demand for trained wellness coaches accelerated. Disease management programs either developed or sought more coach training for their specialists. Employee wellness programs sought to have their health educators and nurses trained in these behavioral change methodologies. Wellness coaching created a paradigm shift within the field of wellness itself.

“I think we are on the verge of a major paradigm shift in promoting health and wellness driven by coaching. Coaching provides a positive connection–a supportive relationship–between the coach and the person who wants to make a change. That connection empowers the person being coached to recognize and draw on his or her own innate ability and resources to make lasting changes for better health and well-being.”
2005 Anne Helmke, Member Services Team Leader, National Wellness Institute

Dee Edington – Zero Trends: Health As A Serious Economic Strategy

Today leaders in the health promotion field like Chapman and Dee Edington (http://hmrc.umich.edu/content.aspx?pageid=42&fname=zerotrends.txt) say that wellness coaching is an essential part of any comprehensive wellness program that wants to be effective. The enthusiasm for the coaching breakouts offered at The National Wellness Conference this year, and over the last several years, has been very exciting to see. The “Coaching Academy” was extremely well attended throughout the conference. My breakouts were packed to standing room only as wellness folks are hungry for more good learning about wellness coaching.

Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC, CWP

Together We Thrive!

Wellness coaching is a wonderful combination of the best of what we know from the life-coaching field and the field of health promotion and wellness. Wellness coaching has become one of the legs that support the table of wellness programs. Seeing the success of both fields has been extremely gratifying for me personally. Knowing that we truly are impacting the health of the world makes me proud.

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The Self-employed Wellness Coach and Market Development – Part One: Closed Doors, Open Doors

Dr. Michael Arloski, Professional Certified Coach, Psychologist, Certified Wellness Practitioner

Wellness and health coaches (let’s just call everyone a wellness coach) who are building a business of their own face some of the same challenges as any life coach, but unique ones as well. All have to usually start from the ground up with very little capital. (Lenders don’t usually make business loans to small companies that offer a service instead of a widget for sale.) All face the challenge of acquainting the world with an unfamiliar service, but for the wellness coach this is even truer.

Many of the almost three thousand coaches we’ve trained through The Wellness Coach Training Institute (Real Balance Global Wellness Services, llc) (www.realbalance.com) are independent coaches who want to grow a coaching business with wellness and health as their niche. Talking with them, drawing on my own entrepreneurial experience and doing mentor coaching with coaches who have wanted to jump start their business or take it to a higher level, I’ve found some ways to help wellness coaches with their unique business challenges. Here’s my take (ideas and opinions) on three important steps for building your wellness coaching business.

#1 – Help others realize the true potential of wellness coaching. Wellness coaches, especially folks without a clinical background, often find doors shut to them. Disease management companies may be hiring R.N.’s and R.D.’s almost exclusively. Coaches are challenged by being seen as not having the background to meet the needs of medical patients. It’s outside of your “scope of practice” they are told. (Even though there is no evidence that medical folks make better coaches) This is where it is critical how we portray our services and our role in the healthcare field.

Wellness coaches need to hold themselves out there to the world, and especially the medical world, as experts in lifestyle behavioral change, not as content experts in the myriad number of dimensions wellness has. We need to be seen as allies of the medical field, not competitors. We need to portray ourselves as the solution, not the problem. We are the solution to the medical clinic, practice, community program that wants patients to live a healthier lifestyle and be medically compliant, but doesn’t have either the time or the expertise to accomplish that with their patients. We can take it beyond education. We can show results.

Remember, wellness coaching covers the whole continuum of health.

#2 – Realize the true potential of wellness coaching ourselves! Mentoring a wonderful wellness coach recently I helped her realize that she was presenting herself to her community in a way that eliminated perhaps 80% of her potential market. She was portraying wellness, and her services, as being primarily about prevention. Well, like they say about chocolate and breakfast, wellness is not just for prevention anymore! Who knows the real number, but it is quite likely that about 80% of the people that wellness coaches work with already have some type of chronic illness or health challenge. They already have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, experienced an operation or some other medical intervention. The key here is reminding the world that lifestyle improvement helps with the course of an illness, not just it’s prevention. The person with diabetes who is medically compliant, loses weight, stops smoking, becomes more active and follows an approved diabetic diet may be able to thrive! Those who don’t suffer, but that is a whole lot of behavioral change!

Often the people who are referred to wellness coaching programs are the people who have been identified as having multiple health risks, and/or some form of life-style related illness. For some programs, despite warnings from health experts like Dee Edington (http://www.hmrc.umich.edu/) wellness coaches work exclusively with clients who are facing these serious health challenges. (Dr. Edington would love for programs to coach the healthy people to remain well. “Everyone needs a wellness coach.” are his words. See his book Zero Trends: Health As a Serious Economic Strategy.)

So, let the world know that you are able to help people make lasting lifestyle improvement when they need it the most! Look at the needs of your community and see what health risks are most prevalent. See where you may be needed more…and consider “specializing”.

Wellness & Health Coach Intensive Training – June 2012 in Colorado

#3 – Create even more value by considering specializing in helping people with specific health challenges. Instead of simply presenting yourself as a generalist willing to help “anybody”, consider how you might develop more expertise in working with a particular population focusing on a particular health challenge. “I help people with diabetes thrive!” sounds a whole lot better than “I help people be well.”

Study that particular health challenge. Learn the language, the common medications, treatment procedures, self-care steps, etc. As a coach you don’t need a treatment-level of knowledge, please refer your clients to get that kind of education and expertise. But, you do need to be able to talk fluidly with your client about their world. For example, if you are working with a client challenged by diabetes, you’d best know what an A1C score is and what it means when your client talks about a new percentage they just hit.

Any successful businessperson (and, as the ICF encourages us to say, coaching is a business, not a “practice”) with experience will tell you that it was a journey of open-doors and closed-doors, ups and downs, cash-flow blues and at times manna from heaven. We’ll take you further on that journey next time in this series as we look at more ways for The Self-employed Wellness Coach to grow their business.

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