Health coaches and psychotherapists both work with the art and science of facilitating change and bringing balance to the lives of their patients and clients. The fields of health coaching and counseling psychology share major areas of overlap, but there are also significant distinctions between the two fields.
Health Coaches: A Not-So-New Field in the Health & Wellness Industry
Though a handful of health and wellness coaches may have been in practice for over 25 years, the professional health coach training, itself, emerged in the last 20 years. Efforts are underway in this country to define the profession, set educational standards, and influence practice guidelines.
Some health coaches are licensed healthcare professionals (nurses, psychologists, physicians) who assist their patients and clients in managing medical conditions. Other health coaches have diverse backgrounds (education, fitness training, nutrition, wellness management). They all use coaching methodology to enhance the self-identified health and well-being goals of their clients.
Health coaching, as understood by the public, is not viewed as a mental health service (psychiatric, clinical psychological, clinical social work, family therapy), though the coaches may in fact have training in these areas.
Psychotherapy: A Traditional Method & Approach
Psychotherapists, on the other hand, focus on mentally-based conditions and are trained in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. Similar to health coaching, psychotherapy goals include behavior change, enhanced decision making, and better use of resources. In psychotherapy, the methods used to work on these issues are more vigorous versions of those health coaching may employ. Plus, the psychotherapist is trained to assess and diagnose conditions (serious eating dysfunction, maternal depression, abuse, chronic, etc).
Which Method is Right for Me?
For most people, health coaching can be the appropriate modality to meet their health-related needs. Sometimes clients feel more comfortable starting with health coaching, but they and their coaches may soon discover that the issues are best addressed by mental health practitioner and appropriate referrals can be made.
There once was a time when we lived in villages and you could ask the elders your questions and concerns. That system, for the most part, no longer exists. Technology has in some ways connected the world, but in others, has made it more fractionated than ever. Health coaches can be the modern day elders of your village. Healthcare and therapy do not always have to be your first solution to everyday issues. Of course, if you are clinically depressed or have another significant health concern, you should immediately seek the appropriate care. But using a physician or therapist for minor issues may not be the most practical and realistic. Therapy can be very expensive, is often not covered by insurance and for many, and attending a session once weekly or more can be difficult. Health coaching is generally cheaper and you can often discuss issues over the phone or computer. Health coaching is not meant to diagnose or treat major illnesses, but many conditions that therapists work with have already been self identified by the family or pediatrician and parents only require some general coaching and techniques for change.
Parents today are tech savvy and are often on the go. Several new companies, including one I love, Parentcirkle, have emerged, and are leading the charge to integrate health coaching into our daily lives and bring back the village structure that worked so well for parents for generations. These sites feature a wide variety of health coaches that discuss various topics. You can join a one on one session with a coach or you can be part of a group with many parents and learn from their experiences as well. You can enroll in a session from the comfort of your home, which is ideal for today’s busy parent. If you feel like you could use some additional parental support on topics like rest, fatherhood, discipline, work-life balance, and many others you should look into health coaching websites such as Parentcirkle.
Written especially for Parentcirkle by Certified Integrative Medical Practitioner and Physician Dr. Joel Gator Warsh.
Try a parent coaching session for free. Use the code FIRSTFREE at registration. Join the Cirkle!