5 ways health coaches are experts

I talk a lot about the fact that health coaches need to shift away from being the experts and authorities.

When I say this, I mean that we need to shift away from a mindset that suggests we are experts on our clients’ lives or authorities over them.

It also means that we are not content experts in health or disease. We don’t diagnose, prescribe or treat unless we have additional training.

However, it is important for health coaches to have a foundation of health and wellness knowledge in the areas of health promotion, disease prevention, chronic illness, risk factors.

We should be familiar with biometric measures and current evidence-based lifestyle recommendations for optimal health. It’s helpful to be up on the latest trends and developments in these lifestyle areas.

In fact, the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching requires that we have this foundational knowledge.

One of the main reasons we need to understand all of this is so we can identify red flags and know how to refer our clients to other professionals. And it is also beneficial as we facilitate various health topics that come up in our coaching conversations.

But because the coaching relationship is client-centred, our role as coach is to determine what the client already knows, needs and wants to learn about. The coach then supports the client in finding credible health and wellness information versus us becoming the experts in it, and advising our clients.

With this working knowledge and understanding, the health coach shifts away from the expert mindset and authority over our client and embraces the coach mindset which is all about being an ally, a guide who facilitates a client-led process that supports a client in achieving their health and wellness goals.

So while we let go of being a medical expert there are areas we absolutely need to be experts in. Here are my top 5.

Health coaches should have expertise in:

1. The Coaching Mindset. We hold that clients are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We believe and trust they have the answers inside of them. They aren't broken and don’t need to be fixed. We meet the client where they are, we inspire them to draw on their strengths, be open to new possibilities, and find the motivation to work toward their vision for their health and well-being. Make it your mission to understand and show up from this place.

2. The Coaching Value Proposition. If you aren’t able to fully explain and articulate what coaching is, what it isn’t and the benefits, then your clients will be confused and will always look to you to be the expert and tell them what to do. All of this should be clearly outlined in an agreement that you and your client both agree to at the beginning of the coaching relationship. Write out your value proposition, memorize it and practice saying it.

3. Active Listening Skills. Listening skills are key to being an effective coach. They are the tools of our trade. First, we need to truly understand the client and their situation. And second, the client needs to feel heard in order for there to be trust and faith established. Become an expert in the listening to the words, for what’s being said underneath the words and with your intuition.

4. Powerful Questions. It’s our job as coaches to ask rather than tell. Questions are our currency, the tools of our trade. They are the foundation of coaching. The cornerstone. Clients have the answers. Coaches have the questions. Get good at asking high mileage questions. It takes practice. It’s an art-form.

5. Accountability. Most of our clients know what they need to do, but doing it is the hard part. If they could have done it on their own by now, they likely would have. This is where a coach comes in. To help with the doing. And we do that by being effective accountability partners. This is a huge part of the value that we provide as coaches so it’s important you develop and hone this powerful coaching skill.

If you want to develop more expertise as a health coach, time in these five areas would be well spent.

What questions do you still have about the areas of expertise for a health coach? Do you have others you would add to this list? Tell me in the comments or feel free to email me at michelle@michelle-maclean.com.

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