Returning from the 2013 National Wellness Conference this month, I continue to be amazed at how wellness coaching has become such a vital part of the wellness field. The tiny trickle of interest in wellness coaching that began in the late 1990’s is now practically a tsunami of both excitement and action washing the field forward with surprising speed.
Like any flood there is a lot of debris and profound changes that are not fully formed. Hospitals, corporate wellness programs, disease management organizations, EAP’s, and insurance companies are scrambling to bridge the behavioral skills gap as their nurses, health educators and others seek training in wellness coaching and effective behavioral change methodologies. Independent coaches still struggle to educate the public on the value and benefits of hiring a wellness coach. Wellness Coach Training programs are not all equal and not all aspects of the profession define wellness coaching in the same manner making it challenging to measure the positive outcomes of wellness coaching programs. (see blog post “Wellness Coach Certification: What It Means and the Top Six Features to Look for in a Wellness Coach Training Program” http://wp.me/pUi2y-6F) This new era stretches us to standardize wellness & health coaching as a profession.
To help with the efforts to improve standards and credentials for wellness and health coaches and to continue to help the wellness field grow, I have become committed to three primary efforts: the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches – NCCHWC (http://www.ncchwc.org), The National Wellness Institute (http://www.nationalwellness.org) and The International Coach Federation- ICF (http://www.coachfederation.org).
My role as a founding member of NCCHWC has now grown into a position as a member of its Board of Directors. After a long haul getting organized and clear we are now moving forward this year with fund raising and the process of doing both a job task analysis and a curriculum analysis for wellness coaching.
It was also an honor to be elected to the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute this year. This will allow me to help shape the future for this great organization and the wellness field itself. Our board now has five of its eleven positions filled with individuals who include wellness coaching in their professional identity, a true testament to what a central part of wellness programing coaching has become!
This year at The National Wellness Conference (http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=NWC2013) we were happy to have two ICF Officers presenting. Janet Harvey (Immediate Past-President of ICF Global) and Magda Mook (Current CEO of the ICF) presented on wellness coaching and leadership as part of the conference’s coaching academy. This showed the increased recognition by the ICF that more and more coaches are identifying themselves as wellness coaches and the field is growing rapidly. The Wellness Coach Training Institute (http://www.realbalance.com)will continue to build its core curriculum around the Core Coaching Competencies that the ICF outlines. We are happy to have more direct contact with its officers as we move forward.
Involvement on these three fronts, combined with the training that our company does both in the U.S.A. and around the world, will continue to position me to have a broad perspective on how the wellness coaching movement continues to grow and move forward.
So! What lies ahead on this road? Our trail through the wilderness that we blazed years ago has fast become a multi-lane expressway! Looking at our rapidly increasing enrolment, and the proliferation of training programs I would say that the wave we are riding is still cresting and has lots of energy behind it.
Here are some trends/directions we will continue to see for wellness coaching.
• As 2014 looms for The Affordable Care Act more and more wellness programs will seek to include certified wellness coaches as part of their wellness programs. “Pay for performance” will drive an outcome-based incentive for healthcare delivery, and the programs that include a behavioral/lifestyle medicine approach (delivered through wellness coaching) will see greater success in improving their patient’s conditions and overall health. As a result, more coaches will find a direct role in medical settings.
• Infatuation with highly scalable technology-based coaching methods will reduce as more is learned about effective, though limited, ways emerge to apply these methods.
• Coaches working live with their clients will continue to find effective ways to integrate technology as part of the coaching process and will find that tracking tools such as phone apps, and web-portals for communication can be very helpful.
• Positive Psychology will continue to provide validation for the “coach approach” and will help drive a movement away from the old risk-reduction model of wellness programming.
• Wellness programs will find better ways to attract people to wellness programs (and wellness coaching) than to offer a financial discount on health insurance premiums.
• More clarity about an operational definition of wellness coaching will allow for better research parameters and what we might call “true” wellness coaching programs will build a base of positive evidence.
Hopes For The Future
Projecting trends is about keen observation, sharing hopes is more about what comes from the heart. Having nurtured this field of wellness coaching along since infancy I have a lot of love for what we’ve seen it achieve. Reading our student’s case studies showing evidence of literally life-saving coaching efforts and seeing organizations report huge health cost savings has been incredibly rewarding. My hope is that we will see the field grow in its professionalism, recognition and that this will lead to eventual financial coverage by insurance. The value is there. Here are some other small hopes of mine for wellness coaching:
• That we will avoid the temptation to over-train and set the requirement bar higher than it needs to be. If coaches stick to coaching and refer the rest, it can be a profession that remains at an affordable level for organizations.
• That we avoid another temptation…that of over-psychologizing coaching. As a licensed psychologist with many years of clinical experience I can tell you that infusing coaching with complex psychological theories and psychotherapeutic approaches will set those coaches up for disaster. A well-trained psychotherapist has years of in-depth education that allows them to handle psychological emergencies and crisis…a coach does not. If you can’t go there with a client and help them come all the way back, don’t even start that journey…refer!
• That we will continue to see the amazing spirit of collaboration that I have witnessed between the participants in the NCCHWC. Organizations and companies that compete for students have pulled together for the good of all.
• That we will continue to coach the whole person, helping them to discover the motivation that a Well-Life Vision and a sense of meaning and purpose can provide.
• That we can take the coaching concept of alliance and spread it world-wide. We can all be Allies For A Healthy World (see more about our efforts in this direction in upcoming posts).