How to Become a Certified Wellness Coach: A Step-by-Step Guide

certified wellness coach

Did you know that approximately 60% of Americans have a diagnosed chronic disease, and that chronic disease and illnesses account for almost 70% of deaths in the United States? Add to this the increasingly debilitating effects on mental health from the pandemic, daily stress, job changes and relationship issues, and you can easily see the growing need for certified health and wellness coaches. As a certified wellness coach, you can help individuals work through their various mental and physical health challenges, and in turn help prevent serious and chronic illness.

Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide on what it means to become a certified wellness coach, and the best path to get there.

First, What Is a Certified Wellness Coach?

At its core, a health and wellness coach helps individuals achieve a healthier and more wholesome lifestyle through education and behavior change support. This often includes utilizing psychological techniques that lead to lasting, positive changes. Wellness coach training can encompass a variety of health fields, and coaches work with different institutions, such as:

  • Company wellness programs
  • Recreation and wellness centers
  • Health food stores
  • Schools and universities
  • Fitness facilities

Not only do wellness coaches serve as a type of mentor, but they also work with the client in setting obtainable health goals by establishing achievable benchmarks that promote healthier lifestyles.

Note: A health coach certification does not equal certification as a nutritionist, physical therapist, or other health provider, though many nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, and health providers often become certified wellness coaches.

Health Coach Training Clientele

Why do people seek out a health and wellness coach? It might be as simple as wanting to live a healthier life. More targeted reasons include:

  • Weight loss
  • Quitting Smoking
  • Work-life stress management
  • Prioritizing self-care
  • Improving positivity
  • Improving relationships

Whereas dieticians and personal trainers are more focused and highly specialized in just one area of health, wellness coaches take a more holistic view of the individual and examine the combined effects of stress, relationships, overall health, etc.

By becoming a certified wellness coach, you’ll train to identify clients’ individual strengths and weaknesses, and learn to recognize the challenges and barriers that each client faces.

You will provide ongoing support through regular follow-ups about the plan and goals that you create together. Keep in mind that many clients may ask for certifications and other credentials when they’re deciding on a coach.

Obtaining a certificate through a reliable and respectable company will give you the edge over other wellness coaches. It can also set you apart from other co-workers if you already have credentials as a physical therapist, personal trainer, or dietician.

How To Become a Health Coach

Most often, you do not need to hold a degree to pursue a wellness coach certification. Different training organizations have different pathways that may or may not include a pathway to national certification. At Catalyst Coaching Institute, for example, there are two different, but related, routes: the Certified Wellness Coach course and the Master Certified Wellness Coach program, which prepares you for the national health and wellness coach certification exam.

To obtain an Master Certified Wellness Coach certification, you need the Certified Wellness Coach course as a prerequisite. The Certified Wellness Coach course has a variety of training options available, including a virtual option that is very popular right now.

Certified Wellness Coach Program

Most people start with the Certified Wellness Coach program for a few reasons:

  • Adding to their career qualifications or current practice offerings
  • Starting a new career as a health and wellness coach
  • Launching a health and wellness coaching business

Once you sign up, you will have access to webinars, courses, and personal coaching sessions. Most programs have access to in-person or virtual training events, allowing you to interact with others and work one-on-one with mentor coaches.

After you have studied, prepared and practiced (which can take several months), you will take the final practical skills exam to become a Certified Wellness Coach!

Master Certified Wellness Coach

If you want to qualify for the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) Exam, you will need a Master Certified Wellness Coach course. But first, let’s look at why you might want a national certification.

Higher certification can distinguish you from other health coaches. It also gives you more credibility when starting a health coaching business, applying to competitive jobs, working with wellness programs, or appealing to a greater clientele.

Course structure involves a combination of webinars, in-person training, study materials and mentoring. The Master Certified Wellness Coach program is the best way to prepare for and pass the national exam.

Finding a Program

The training organization you choose will primarily dictate how the coursework best aligns with the national exam. Make sure you choose a program that has completed certification through the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching.

A program with this certification is a requirement for taking the national exam. You may find other programs online that promote “free” programs, but be wary. Many of these programs are a sham, and often, they do not have the same level of coursework and emphasis needed to truly help you pass and become a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC).

The final examination includes four categories:

  • Structure of coaching
  • Process of coaching
  • Health and wellness
  • Ethics

A certified program will emphasize these four areas and prepare you for the questions and topics you may encounter. They may also provide you with practice exams that emulate the final.

Lastly, make sure you find a program that fits your learning needs. Work and family obligations, as well as global health conditions, may make traveling to seminars and other courses difficult. So an organization that offers some degree of virtual training may be important.

Bottom line: The best program for you will not only be accredited but will offer multiple learning styles and options to meet your needs.

Healthcare and Emerging Fields

While health and wellness coaching has gained a larger share of the spotlight during the past couple of years, the concept has been around since the 1990s.

Though stemming from a positive psychological approach to people’s health, the field remained relatively vague for a while, with some health professionals questioning its validity. But as chronic illnesses persist and the negative effects of poor lifestyle habits become more understood, the importance of health coaches in the healthcare setting has become more obvious and accepted.

A few studies looked at the most common techniques that health coaches use and found that client-centered coaching was most popular. Client-centered coaching focuses on:

  • Client-driven goals
  • Accountability
  • Self-discovery tactics
  • Education

Education was mainly based on the condition or disease the person was dealing with. In this respect, the education was geared specifically to the client and their challenges.

Researchers also found that health and wellness coaches were mainly from a medical or allied health background, and that often the success of a health and wellness coach largely depends on the collaboration of the entire health and medical team.

As a health and wellness coach, utilizing evidence-based practices should be at the forefront of your thoughts. The coursework program you choose should heavily emphasize what evidence has shown.

Other techniques you should look for in a coursework program are:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Positive psychology
  • Active listening
  • Goal setting
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Health outcome metrics

In many cases, health coaches thrive in more conversational-style sessions where clients feel like they can direct the goals, barriers, and possible limitations.

COVID-19 and Health Coaches

Health and wellness coaches have taken on an increasingly significant role during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers have found that certified coaches can help reduce chronic illness, provide education, and improve patient rapport–all important during an increasingly stressful time.

In addition to providing education and structure on improving lifestyle and behavioral concerns, coaches can also offer education on vaccine efficacy and ongoing support. These are critical factors in a society where most hospitals, physicians, and other health workers have limited time and availability for non-emergent care.

Certified Wellness Coach Program

Whether you’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a certified wellness coach, or you want to expand on a background in health through continuing education, pursuing a health and wellness coach certification can give you the career fulfillment you’ve been looking for. You can help break down barriers in public health, help ease the burden on the healthcare system, and help people live better lives.

Our certified programs provide you with the most extensive and applicable coursework that you will need for the national exam. Register online today and get started with your health and wellness coach certification.

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