Are you thinking about hiring a health or lifestyle coach to help you lose weight and live a healthier life? Here are some important questions to ask any potential coach before making your decision. Remember, we all place a different amount of importance on various aspects of a professional relationship, so ask the questions that matter the most to you.
What is your accreditation?
It is important to know that as of today, anyone, anywhere, can proclaim themselves “Health Coach” and establish their brick & mortar or online practice without any kind of knowledge, training, or credential whatsoever. For that reason, it is particularly important to check the background of the coach you are thinking of hiring. You need to make sure that they have gone through the right training and keep their knowledge up-to-date by meeting nationally approved re-certification requirements. Here is an article that lists the most popular Health Coach Certifications currently offered.
The Health Coach Certification from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is the only one that is accredited by the National Council on Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA is the organization that accredits certification programs for nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, and registered dietitians among others. ACE requires that as Health Coaches, we renew our certification every other year. To do so, we need to pursue continuing education and take exams that allow us to stay up-to-date with evolving science in the domains of nutrition, exercise, and behavioral change among others.
Now when it comes to Health and Wellness Coaching, the profession’s highest standard is represented by the National Board Certification credential (NBC-HWC), offered in collaboration with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). I personally received that certification beginning of 2020. If the potential coach you are interviewing does not hold NBC-HWC credentials, it doesn't mean that they are not competent and won't be able to help you. Still, I would encourage you to ask them why they have chosen to not pursue that certification and the strict recertification process that comes with the credential.
Many coaches are certified by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). ICF offers a unique globally recognized and independent credentialing program for coaches. The ICF’s mission is to train coaches who are expert in the art of coaching, separately from the industry in which they decide to practice. ICF Credentials are awarded to professional coaches who have met stringent education and experience requirements. Yet, ICF Credentials don’t grant a coach any knowledge in health or nutrition. For that reason, it is important to make sure that their background and other trainings are filling that gap, if you are looking for a coach who will be able to provide you with nutrition consulting for instance, or help with a chronic condition such as cholesterol, diabetes, etc.
What is your approach? Why does it work?
Of course, you can’t expect a coach to give you all the bits and pieces of their program in a first introductory call or session. There is no time for that. Plus, if a coach is doing their job right, they will adjust their program to your specific needs, so it won’t be the same exact content for every client they are working with. But you should be able to get a pretty good idea of what a potential coach’s approach to wellness is and how it can help you.
How do you apply your principles in your own life?
We have all met that guru who wants to take us down a road that they are not traveling themselves. Why would that be? Is it because what they recommend is not realistic? Or because it doesn’t lead to the results they are describing? Ask your potential coach for a few examples of how they are walking their talk. Not only will you get a better idea of how candid and open they are, but you will also get a better idea of whether or not what they are promoting is something you actually want for yourself. Why are you a coach?
Listen to their story and see if it resonates with you. It does not have to be something crazy or amazing. Yet, having someone explain their big “why” to you will give you a better idea of who that person really is and what their purpose is. You will get to know them a little bit more and by now, you should know if you want to work with them or not.
What makes you different?
The difference between two coaches comes from so many directions. Their coaching philosophy, whether they coach in-person or remotely, the length of their programs, how available they are in-between sessions, whether they provide education and guidance or just coaching, whether they “push” you or let you move at your own pace. Do they use technology? Do they have their own platform or do they adjust to yours? Are they flexible with appointments or not?
It is not always easy to choose between coaches. Sometimes you like them all! Their approach, their tools, their prices, everything seems equally appealing to you. Then just ask them! Ask them what makes them different. Ask them why you should choose them rather than another health coach? They will probably know and will explain in detail.
Will you get in touch with my doctor?
In my opinion, a good dedicated health coach will ask you to put them in touch with your Primary Physician. Of course, you won’t have to agree to that, but your coach should at least ask. It’s important for a coach to introduce themselves to your doctor and establish this idea of a team approach to helping you reach your wellness goals. Of course, you, as a patient and a client, will be responsible for keeping communication flowing. You will make sure both your coach and your physician are aware of what’s going on with your health, but having the coach make that first introductory step, if you so wish, is important. If a coach is not planning on getting in touch with your doctor, it might be an issue down the road.
Will you support no matter what?
In other words, will your coach support you if you take avenues that they don’t necessarily endorse, such as special diets, workout regimen, etc.
It is important to know that many health coaches also offer guidance. What does that mean? It means that they will make recommendations when it comes to nutrition, physical activity, etc. And this is one of the areas where health coaches might largely differ from life coaches. Because Certified Health Coaches have expertise in areas such as nutrition or exercise science, they are not just going to ask you questions and let you come up with your own answers. They will guide you, they will walk you through a process, they will educate you along the way, they will arm you with tools and knowledge that you will be able to use later, long after the coaching is over, to make healthy choices for the rest of your life.
Now since health coaches often have a plan in mind for you, it’s important to know from the start whether or not your coach will stick with you if you drift away from their program. If a coach promotes a vegan diet, what will happen if you decide to actually eat fish? If a health coach recommends that you do meditation, what will happen if you just can’t “comply”. Some coaches are very flexible. Others stick to their plan because they think it’s the ONLY way. Others are right in the middle… Ask them where they stand and decide what you feel comfortable with.
Can I get in touch with your past clients?
A coach might just be starting out or have 20 years of experience under their belt. Numbers are not necessarily the most valuable data in this case, but you are the one deciding what you feel comfortable with. I believe that it is important to ask a potential coach if you could get in touch with one or two previous clients though. This way, you can get a better idea of what it feels like to work with that person. You will be surprised at how many coaches won’t grant you that privilege and will just ask you to read their testimonials. And I don’t blame them. Many do that out of respect for their previous clients.
If you know that you have found the coach you want to work with, then this step is indeed unnecessary and it might be good to leave people alone. But if you are still wondering and if you are still feeling scared (because often that’s what it’s all about!), just ask! I doubt that any coach will give you a client’s email address or phone number (although it might be possible!), but if YOU are willing to have your email given to a past client, they might contact you directly. If it’s the case, just let that person talk and try to get a better idea of what you will get out of the coaching work.
Which coach do I choose now?
If a coach does not provide you an opportunity to ask the questions that are important to you, you should see that as a red flag. Most coaches offer a free discovery call. That call allows you to get your questions answered and also get a feel for the coach’s personality. Make the best out of that free consultation and use it to make sure that your coach is not just answering your question but is also a good listener.
Be ready to answer questions too. Just as you are trying to see if your coach might be a good fit, a potential coach should also try to assess whether they can help you or not. They need to ask YOU questions. They need to save you time and money and tell you right away if they believe they can't help you.
Now you can go and browse the Internet to find a Health Coach among the thousand coaches out there who are or are not certified. You can browse professional directories. I would suggest the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or, even better, the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBC-HWC).
Or, you can reach out to me! Yes, I am the NBC-HWC and ACE Certified Health Coach that you know already, because you have been reading my blog posts for a while! If you like what I write and what I stand for, you can use my CONTACT FORM or you can request a FREE Discovery Session if you want to know more about my approach and how it might help you reach your goals.
Take that next step and take your health seriously… the longer you wait, the harder it will be! Let’s Go! Allons-y!