You may or may not have heard of wellness coaching - its a field of health and wellness that is new, exciting, and rapidly evolving. While not everyone knows what a wellness coach is today (similar to the what I suspect people knew of personal trainers 30 years ago), I envision that in another 10 years the term and understanding of the profession will be widespread.

While the term itself may be common in a decade, I suspect that the background and knowledge of wellness coaches will be every bit as varied as those we currently see in any industry that requires a certification rather than a four year degree. I say that not to knock the background and qualifications of most wellness coaches (many are RN's, personal trainers, registered dieticians, competitive athletes, or other medical professionals), its just to say that the your coach may have a very unique and particular background which may make him or her a good fit or not to work with you.

Why would I hire a coach and not another industry professional?

I introduce this article deliberately giving you some sense of the varied backgrounds that coaches come from. I myself have a history in athletics, certifications in nutrition, and a personal experience with cancer. When you hire an industry professional rather than a wellness coach - such as a registered dietician, you are hiring someone to essentially tell you what to do. Perhaps you want to know exactly what meal plan would work best with your body chemistry. You are hiring a consultant to tell you how you should live your life. Likewise, if you go to a personal trainer, you are asking them what exercises you should do get fit, build strength, improve cardiovascular fitness etc. Doctors are hired to prescribe medication and suggest lifestyle changes. Get the picture?

Now, think about the coach you may have had in grade school, high school or beyond. Some coaches may have told you what to do, but the good coaches got to know you. They learned who you were and explored your strengths and weaknesses. They were able to work with you and develop your skill set such that you could excel at the sport you were playing. They understood the psychology of the sport, that there would be wins and losses and they kept the big picture in mind when you yourself may have lost sight of the vision.

A wellness coach is not a consultant. Typically the coach has a background in which they could be a consultant, but they have chosen what they feel to be a more empowering career. A career which embraces the concept that people can make long term lifestyle changes from their own volition. If you look at topics such as weight loss - approximately 5% of people that lose 10 pounds or more keep it off over 5 years. That's staggering. Telling people what to do is easy and it may promote short term success, but long term lifestyle change is more deeply rooted than short term wins. Even medical scares as serious as heart attacks typically only promote lifestyle changes on average for under a year (amazingly many people even go off life saving medications as early as a year after a heart attack - and how easy is it to remember to take a pill!).

So to answer the question, Why would I hire a wellness coach rather than another industry professional; the answer is simply choice. What do you feel is the approach that will work best for you - information or partnership? If you are self motivated, change comes naturally for you and you have a compelling reason to make long term sustainable changes, perhaps some expert advice is right for you. If, however, you feel that the information is the easy part, and changing your life is the harder part (as studies would indicate is the norm), then perhaps a coach would teach, inspire and team with you to excel in the area that you are looking to master.

What can I expect working with a coach?

You may be surprised at the discussions you'd have with a wellness coach. You are more likely to talk about what inspires you, your wellness vision, your personal goals and your dreams and aspirations than you are to talk about the breakfast you had last week. Now, be clear that this is not psychoanalysis. A coach acknowledges the varied background, successes, setbacks and triumphs you've had in the past, but that is water under the bridge. Be prepared to talk action, to develop a plan, to build accountability structures and to think through real life ways you can be successful with your goals.

With the varied background you'll find with coaches, you'll notice that each has a unique methodology, philosophy and personality. We all express ourselves differently. If you are considering a coach, make sure to interview your prospective colleague to see if you believe you can reach your goals working with this person. If not, perhaps the coach is not right for you, or perhaps you'd be better off hiring a consultant that guide you and point you in the right direction.

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Author's Bio: 

Doug Nau received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1996. In 2003, he attained his Masters in Busines Administration from the University of Arizona. Doug has been trained as a life coach at the Academy for Coaching Excellence in Sacramento, CA and in addition to running 'The Wellness Coach', he also works part time as a Lifestyle Management Coach with the Sutter Health system in Northern California. Doug is a member of the International Coaching Federation and has been successfully in business since early 2006.