Know the Difference: Health Coaching & Wellness Coaching

In 2016, Melinda Huffman wrote an article titled “Advancing the Practice of Health Coaching: Differentiation from Wellness Coaching” that provides the basics of how these two practices are different. In that article, she referenced a specific differentiating role definition of sorts by Kreisberg (2015):

“Health coaches work with persons who are struggling with health issues that are often chronic. Wellness coaches orient more to prevention and continued wellness. In the medical marketplace, it’s health, not wellness, coaches who are being hired.”

To further differentiate, definitions of each practice are also included in Huffman’s article:

Health coaching is the use of evidence-based skillful conversation, clinical strategies, and interventions to actively and safely engage clients in health behavior change to better self-manage their health, health risk(s), and acute or chronic health conditions resulting in optimal wellness, improved health outcomes, lowered health risk, and decreased health care costs (Huffman & Miller, 2015).

“It can therefore be reasoned that wellness coaching is guidance and inspiration provided to otherwise “healthy” individuals who desire to maintain or improve their overall general health status, which often includes smoking cessation, increased physical activity, eating well, and general weight management (Huffman, 2016).

These definitions and the role definition provided by Kreisberg (2015) provide a general overview of the differences between the two, but to dig further, here is a visual included in Huffman’s 2016 article:

Evidence-based Health Coaching. Qualifications/EligibilityHealth CoachWellness Coach
Pre-requisite: A professional or clinical license or credential from either a State or National licensing/ credentialing bodyX
Prerequisite: Licensed/credentialed to assess, plan, treat and/or evaluate treatment/care plans or provide care based on the health and/or behavioral health diagnosis or condition, and safely provide health teaching accordingly.X
Provides interventions according to the clinical practice standards and ethics for one’s healthcare disciplineX
Prerequisite: an academic degree with a major in a health and/or wellness related fieldX
Clinically trained to teach individuals with active disease and/or chronic conditions, acute illness or medical conditions, and/or moderate to high health risk(s).X
Clinically trained to identify behavioral health issues requiring referral to behavioral health specialistX
Provides coaching within the boundaries of one’s State or National Practice Act or National CertificationXX
Generally requires coach training beyond formal educationXX
Provides health teachingXX
Coaching Core CompetenciesHealth CoachingWellness Coaching
Certification testing to demonstrate coaching competenceXX
Maintaining health and wellness:
Tobacco cessation, weight management, stress management, physical activity, eating well
Guides agenda/goal setting/coaching interventions based on health risk(s)/condition(s)/co-morbidities/ safety/and/or prescribed treatment planX
Motivational Interviewing and/or Positive PsychologyXX
Health outcomes measurementX
Evidence-based Clinical Practice GuidelinesX
Cultural competenceXX

Tomorrow we will look at Life Coaching!

To learn more about how Health Coaching differentiates from Wellness Coaching, click here to read Advancing the Practice of Health Coaching: Differentiation from Wellness Coaching by Melinda Huffman, MSN, CCNS

Huffman, M., & Miller, C. (2015). Evidence-based health coaching for healthcare providers (3rd ed.). Winchester, TN: Miller & Huffman Outcome Architects, LLC.

Kreisberg, J. (2015, September). Health coaching in a clinical setting. Retrieved from setting-thoughts-on-an-emerging-field/

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