Katie Lee Pitchford (Certificate in Wellness Coaching)
The role of a wellness coach is to explore a person’s greatest health concerns and goals thus finding strategies to overcome obstacles that may arise. They encourage the individual to self-manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours ensuring they achieve their overall health and wellness goal. They coach and support a person to develop new skills enabling them to manage stress levels effectively, thus having a positive influence on an individual’s quality of life. Wellness coaching can help a person take control of their long term health condition and give them the skills to positively influence their state of mind and, as a direct consequence, their health.
“Coaching is the supportive framework within which clients tap into their motivation and achieve their goals. Coaching combines a lot of listening and support with inquiry, accountability, expertise, inspiration, guidance and setting clearly stated goals so that the client creates successful and meaningful change.” (Laura Crooks 2008)
The long term health condition I am focusing my studies on is ‘diabetes’.
Firstly, it is important for the wellness coach to build up a rapport with the patient engaging them and gaining their trust. Once the rapport has been established motivational interviewing is an essential stage of a patient’s journey as it allows the individual to express their desire to change rather than the wellness coach telling them they need to change.
“MI has since been shown to be effective in improving general health status or wellbeing, promoting physical activity, improving nutritional habits, encouraging medication adherence and managing chronic conditions such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity and diabetes” Ariel Linden (2009)
Wellness vision is the next step; it allows the patient to imagine the outcome of the goals they set and increases the likelihood of them reaching what they set out to achieve. Now that the patient has their wellness vision and are determined to make changes they should set specific goals with the guidance and support of their wellness coach.
Cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) is a technique which a wellness coach may utilise, this entails practicing mindfulness techniques and positive psychology with persons who are suffering from diabetes or chronic illnesses.
The wellness coach would use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to examine and challenge the person’s unrealistic ways of thinking that leads to their negative feelings, exacerbating negative emotions and learning to be self-aware and focus on their condition, thus enhancing a healthier behaviour and mindset.
Research suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques can have profound effects on emotional thought processes and can lead to an improved immunity, reduced blood pressure and decreased heart rate. Mindfulness and relaxation can also improve a person’s mood and outlook.
Wellness coaching can positively influence a person living with diabetes by helping them become more aware of themselves and how they manage their disease. A wellness coach can help a person who wants to change by looking closely at how they perceive food and help them overcome unhealthy food habits. People with long term health conditions such as diabetes can often suffer with depression and anxiety; this can lead to the individual trying to cover up these emotions with food. It is important for the wellness coach to try and help the patient face the underlying problems and together set achievable goals. Low blood sugar is a great fear for a person living with diabetes; this can prevent them from participating in exercise. Establishing a safe exercise regime is vital to encourage the individual to improve their physical health, boosting their self-esteem. People living with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing other health related problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, high blood pressure and blindness; this can lead to the individual feeling both depressed and anxious. Psychological conditions such as depression are more common with people who are suffering from long term conditions, they may struggle coming to terms with their diagnosis or failing to manage their condition effectively.
By working with the wellness coach the person can develop strategies to help them manage and accept their condition; this will have a positive influence as they will be less likely to suffer from their psychological problems. This method of therapy strengthens their ability to work, form relationships and educational opportunities to be increased, leading to a better lifestyle.
The wellness coach may recommend therapies such as guided imagery and meditation, these are two ways to relax your mind and help you to discover new coping mechanisms. According to Joseph B. Nelson
“Using mindfulness meditation in people with diabetes not only reduces stress levels, but lowers blood pressure as well. Chronic anxiety and stress in diabetics makes blood sugars and blood pressure more difficult to control by stimulating release of stress hormones such as cortisol, ephinephrine, and norepinephrine. Mindfulness meditation helps to reduce levels of stress hormones – and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression which are common among diabetics.” (Joseph Nelson 2010)
As a wellness coach it is important to keep the individual motivated and focused on the goals they have set by having regular one to one sessions and telephone updates. Without this focused support the individual may not be able to see the link between their own behaviour and the impact it has on their health. Studies have shown that medication adherence is improved when a person with a long term health condition has regular sessions with a wellness coach.
“Adherence to medications is central to successfully managing diabetes. Health coaching, which relies on frequent contact and ongoing intervention, has emerged in recent years as part of disease management initiatives and has been promoted as an effective method for improving health outcomes and patient compliance with medication.” (Christine Melko, 2013)
In summary, there is significant evidence which is accessible to demonstrate that an individual living with a long term health condition can benefit greatly from having regular one to one sessions with a wellness coach. Diabetes is one of the conditions that have been shown to benefit from wellness coaching, having a positive influence on the individual’s perceptions of food, eating habits and physical activity. Wellness coaching improves their quality of life and reduces the possibility of further health risks.
- Crooks, L. (2008) https://ezinearticles.com/?The-Who,-What,-When,-Where-and-Hows-of-Wellness-Coaching&id=1378107 accessed on 26.10.13
- Linden, A. (2009) http://www.qconsulthealthcare.com/pdf/Chronic_condition_MI.pdf accessed on 26.10.13
- Melko, C (2013) http://ajl.sagepub.com/content/4/2/187.abstract accessed on 27.10.13
- Nelson, J. (2010) http://voices.yahoo.com/how-mindfulness-meditation-helps-diabetics-6314242.html?cat=68 accessed on 27.10.13