Health coaches are becoming more and more crucial as modern medicine continues to improve. Now more than ever, the health care field is progressing at high speeds and professionals do not always have the available time some patients desire. Here is where health coaches become involved. Basically, the position of a health coach was produced to fill the emptiness in several doctor offices. Many physicians contribute but do not have the time or resources to assist each individual and aid in constructing healthy habits on a day to day basis. However, health coaches are available to be a supportive mentor that assists and guides patients in making healthy lifestyle changes. Many patients who seek help to change their lifestyle are those suffering from some kind of chronic pain, headaches, or joint inflammation.
In the previous weeks, we have defined and explained what a health coach is and what they really do, as well as the first two steps a health coach might take with a patient. Throughout this article, the third and fourth steps will be broken down and analyzed.
Need a refresher? No problem!
Health Coaching in El Paso: Part 1 can be found by clicking here.
Health Coaching in El Paso: Part 2 can be found by clicking here.
Step 3: Building A Plan For Action
Once the health coach understands the values and goals of the patient, a plan for change can get mapped out. One thing that is unique about building a plan, is that the health coach encourages the patient to have a say in it and contribute to building the plan. The ways of medicine have changed, and this aspect is one of them. Before, many patients would sit silently as doctors instructed them on their new protocol. However, it has been shown that patients who build a plan of action with the practitioner, are more likely to comply and complete a program.
In addition to this, the perspective of the patient can help maintain expectations and keep the plan of action at a realistic timeline. The health coach will offer their suggestions during this process as well as their perspective. Often times, this will help the patient break down their overall goal, into smaller more specific goals or tasks.
As soon as the overall goals are broken down into specific tasks, the health coach will then map out the process to complete these tasks. It can be simple to overlook small steps when thinking of a bigger picture, so the health coach will provide tools to better help the patient understand.
An example of this would be for a patient who wants to lose weight. Mapping out these tasks will have an end result that looks similar to these:
• I will try a new fruit and vegetable every day this week and identify what I enjoy
• I will think of different, creative ways to work movement into my day, such as finding a walking trail in my neighborhood
• I will always keep a water bottle with me and refill it every two hours
• I will cook dinner two nights this week
• I will go for a walk after dinner every day this week
By providing the patients with these smaller tangible tasks, the patient now has “homework” in a sense to complete these throughout the week. The health coach will set a deadline with these tasks and check-in with the patient regularly to ensure they are on track.
Step 4: Tracking Progress And Results
Before progress can be tracked, the health coach will take into consideration the patient’s goal and determine how often the patient will need to come in for follow-ups. For many patients, a combination of follow up techniques are used. Health coaches understand that in-person is not always the most convenient and does not always fit into the patient’s schedule. If this is the scenario, health coaches work around that to create follow-ups by using some in-person visits, some phone conversations, or other virtual check-in meetings that are HIPAA compliant.
Often times, during a lifestyle change patients may become confused or discouraged. It is important to remember that this is normal and progress is not always a straight line up, but rather includes bumps along the way. In order to better help the patient, the health coach will provide them with a helpful “where to turn” guide.
As humans, at different times we require different types of support. The where to turn guide will be a supporting reminder of things to do to counteract these feelings when they arise. Items included in this guide will be ideas such as:
• Pursuing a hobby, like dancing or playing an instrument
• Getting out in nature
• Starting a mindfulness practice
• Making art, like drawing or writing
• Joining a community, religious, or spiritual group
In addition to these activities, the health coach will determine with the patient what kind of support (internal or external) is appropriate depending on the situation.
Lastly, progress does not always look like a dip in the number on the scale. Progress can come in many different forms. In order to help the patient appreciate and realize all the progress they are making, a health coach will ask questions like:
1. How can you appreciate your progress?
2. How would you describe the benefits of your experience?
3. What’s been good about this experience?
4. How have you grown?
As mentioned earlier, a health coach is important to have as they help one realize all the steps it truly takes to be successful and reach their health goals. There are many critical steps that are easily overlooked when the big picture is on their minds. The final two steps that a health coach will work on with a patient is to help them visualize their best self and to create a plan for resiliency. These two topics will be discussed in the next article.
Using a health coach to complete a lifestyle change is similar to the work of going to therapy. One must be willing to accept the tools and resources they are givien, and actually do the work provided or it will not produce results. If a patient is truly serious about completing a lifestyle change, using a health coach is an extremly beneifical resource! As one can see, they work with the patients to hammer down tasks and ideas that a patient might not have orignally thought of. By utilizing a health coach, the patient has a higher chance of reaching their goals. – Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
All information and resources for this post came from an Integrative Practioner article titled, “A Six-Step Approach To Health And Wellness Coaching: A Toolkit for Practice Implementation” and can be found by clicking here; as well as listed below in the proper bibliography.
*The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, and nervous health issues or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
American Psychological Association (2019). The Road to Resilience. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience
Jonas, W. (2019). Empowering patients with chronic diseases to live healthier through health coaching: Integrative primary care case study. Samueli Integrative Health Programs. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/give-yourself-a-health-self-assessment
Miller, W. and Rose, G. (1991). Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People to Change Addictive Behavior. Guilford Publications.
Pecoraro, Wendy. “A Six-Step Approach to Health and Wellness Coaching: A Toolkit for Practice Implementation.” Official Media Integrative Practitioner, 17 Oct. 2019, http://www.integrativepractitioner.com/resources/e-books/a-six-step-approach-to-health-and-wellness-coaching-a-toolkit-for-practice-implementation.
Trzeciak, S. and Mazzarelli, A. (2019). Compassionomics. Studer Group. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The Stages of Change.Retrieved from: http://www.cpe.vt.edu/gttc/presentations/8eStagesofChange.pdf
Your Coach (2009). SMART goals.Retrieved from: https://www.yourcoach.be/en/coaching-tools/