When we have an area of expertise in health - as Dietitians/Nutritionists, Exercise Physiologists, Nurses, GPs, Naturopaths - there's often confusion about how health coaching can be used within our practice.
We can assume people have come to us for our expertise, and that our role is to provide them with information and advice. We may think we have to switch back and forth between our primary expertise and health coaching when working with clients. But, it’s not so much about switching hats, as it is about seamlessly integrating the coaching approach with your existing expertise. Delivering only the information that the client wants, results in an efficient and effective consultation.
Understanding the Different Approaches:
Acute care needs a different approach to lifestyle related conditions. Acute care requires expertise to assess and fix the immediate medical concern - such as a broken arm, a laceration, or an infection. Supporting clients to make lifestyle behaviour changes in order to manage chronic health conditions or optimise their quality of life requires an entirely different approach - a coaching approach.
When we take a coaching approach, we use the active listening skills of open questions, reflections and summaries to understand what a client is hoping to achieve and what their concerns are. We can identify what they have tried before, and what they feel willing and ready to try now. Essentially, clients need to be engaged in order to take an active role, and very few people take action when kept in a passive role, and simply told what to do!
Coaching as the Foundation of Every Consultation:
When health professionals adopt a coaching mindset, they move from being experts who dictate advice and action plans to being collaborative partners who support clients to make progress towards their health goals. This collaborative approach empowers clients and encourages them to actively participate in their health journey, learning about themselves along the way. It also makes consultations time efficient and effective, by being personalised to client needs.
Integrating Expertise and Coaching:
Clients may have come to you for your expertise, however it's important not to assume that we know exactly what the client needs, and therefore decide the priorities of care. By using health coaching techniques like asking open-ended questions, actively listening, and reflecting, you can effectively pinpoint the client's needs, knowledge gaps, and priorities.
Personalising Education to Meet Client Needs:
We can often assume that clients require information in order to change their behaviour, however the education and generic information we provide can be overwhelming. This doesn’t honour all the years of experience a client has in managing their health condition, prior consultations they’ve had with other health professionals, and any research they’ve done.
In fact, we are more efficient and effective when we use open questions to explore where our expertise may be needed, for example where there might be a skill or a knowledge gap.
Once we discover what a client already knows and what information they want, our expertise can then fill the information/knowledge gap. Education is useful when we provide information, with permission, and are always checking in, to ascertain that we have delivered the right amount of information or detail.
Personalising Consultations to Meet Client Needs:
Taking a curious and client-centred approach means asking questions to help you understand why clients have come to you, what they want to achieve, and their vision of optimal health. Coaching techniques help clients identify their priorities and motivators, address knowledge gaps and barriers, and create doable action plans. By tailoring each consultation to the client's specific needs, you're involving clients actively in their health journey.
Delivering Value through Coaching:
When we assume people are coming to see us for our expertise, we can feel that giving value means delivering an in-depth education and coming up with a comprehensive action plan for them.
In fact, we are more efficient, effective and provide more value when we use coaching to explore what a client wants from us, what information they know and what they want to know and help them create a plan matched to their state of change. They feel heard, understand and the plan they create with your support will incorporate their priorities and preferences.
Empowering Clients to Create Sustainable Change:
By integrating coaching techniques into your consultations, you create a client-centred environment where client needs, goals, and knowledge gaps are effectively addressed. When clients feel heard, understood and their past experiences are respected, it increases the likelihood of clients returning for ongoing support.
By supporting clients to prioritise the areas of health that matter to them, identify motivators, barriers and co-create action plans, you empower them to take charge of their health journey.
Blending your expertise with health coaching offers a powerful combination that can make a significant impact on clients' lives. This collaborative approach empowers clients and promotes lasting behaviour change. Embracing health coaching as the foundation of your practice allows you to offer tailored and valuable support to clients, ultimately leading to better client engagement, outcomes and increased client and practitioner satisfaction.