Health coach holding a measuring tape and fruit.

Health Coaching is on track to become one of the hottest health careers of 2014 and beyond as our nation’s healthcare reform calls for significant preventive health measures.

The following post was contributed by Melinda Huffman, BSN, MSN, CCNS, CHC, co-founder of The National Society of Health Coaches.

Health Coaching is growing exponentially and isn’t just a here today, gone tomorrow fad!

Rather, it’s an important trend that is happening right now in healthcare. A trend that is moving away from traditional health teaching (teaching “at” the patient/client as if he were an information receptacle) to that of actively engaging the individual to change unhealthy behaviors!

The National Society of Health Coaches receives hundreds of calls from those wanting to know more about health coaching. But the inquiry we get most often is this: “I’ve been online for several weeks looking at health coaching programs. But I’m so confused. There are so many out there!

How do I choose the one that’s right for me?”

Here are the Lucky 7 Guiding Questions that will help you select the health coach training that’s just the right fit for you!

#1. Is the program based on accepted scientific evidence?

The answer should be “Yes”. What is this evidence? Health Coaching methods and strategies based on scientific evidence and research are more likely to result in positive outcomes for patients/clients. Not all programs are evidence-based. Ask what scientific principles are the bases for the foundation of the program. These should include motivational interviewing, agenda and goal setting, stages of change, and medical research as a minimum.

Diagram of health behavior outcomes created by the Naitonal Society of Health Coaches

Evidenced-based health coaching provides the most positive outcomes for both patients and clients.

#2. What credentials or education is required for program eligibility?

Some programs are intended primarily for those with a license to give medical advice or instruction to all patients/clients, including those with chronic conditions. Other programs require specific educational degrees for those desiring to coach only “wellness”. Still others accept people from all backgrounds who may not have any prior background in health and wellness. Be sure that your educational background is commensurate with the program you are interested in.

#3. Should program cost be an indicator of quality?

No. For example, those with a license in clinical practice will pay far less for a particular program because these individuals already have a medical and psychosocial background needed for health coaching. Some programs cost much more due to the length of program. For instance, an individual who doesn’t have a healthcare background will need to enroll in a lengthier program to acquire a basic knowledge of health and psychosocial subject matter. Also know that some programs are built on more of a business model, meaning they teach concepts about starting your own health coaching business. Review the specific content to be sure they include appropriate health and wellness material designed for the clients you want to coach.

#4. Do I want to work in a healthcare, wellness, clinic, or other setting?

Some programs prepare you to work primarily in wellness settings, like wellness centers and low-risk employee health, while others are more appropriate for those who work in medical settings, such as hospitals, health clinics, home care, occupational health and managed care. Ask if the program prepares you to “coach” primarily in one setting over another.

#5. What reputation and credibility does the program have?

Ask who endorses or credentials the program and what entity bestows continuing education credit.

#6. What is the feedback from those having completed the program?

Ask for testimonials and references of those who have successfully completed the program with a work and educational background similar to yours. Compare responses from several.

#7. Who are the primary purchasers of the program?

Ask, “Who is best suited for your program material?” For example, those with college degrees in science, those who are nurses, psychologists, personal trainers, etc.?