Should Occupational Therapists Get A Wellness Coach Certification?

Toddler girl in child occupational therapy session doing sensory playful exercises with her therapist.

For many, the decision to become an occupational therapist was driven by the longing to help others as they work to support patients improve their daily lives. Whether that’s through helping patients overcome an injury or illness, thrive with a disability or support them in living a more full life, being an occupational therapist is about enabling others to participate in daily living. 

What if you could expand your impact in helping patients to treat them even more holistically? What if you could coach them through stress, anxiety or other elements that might be stopping them from reaching their full potential? Adding a wellness coach certification can help you do just that. 

By becoming a certified wellness coach, occupational therapists can better help patients reach their goals by addressing stressors in other areas of their lives. In addition to improving patient outcomes, earning a wellness coach certification also enhances your career path. 

Read on for our complete guide on why becoming a certified wellness coach will be beneficial to any occupational therapist’s practice, followed by simple steps you can take today.

What Is a Certified Wellness Coach?

A wellness coach certification helps you work directly with clients to improve their overall health, wellbeing and life. The main goal of a wellness coach is to bring out the best in our clients based on their own desired directions and goals.

Through evidence-based practices, wellness coaches help clients bring about positive behavioral changes to issues that may be inhibiting their health, wellness and progress. If a client doesn’t know where to start, a certified wellness coach can also utilize skills related to motivational interviewing, intrinsic motivation and other strategies to help move them forward in a positive direction.

Ultimately, health coaches come alongside individuals to help create sustainable and lasting behavior, so it is essential to develop a good rapport with the client. As an all-encompassing professional, wellness coaches can help address the following, among others:

  • Declined physical activity
  • Chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension)
  • Recovering from an accident or illness
  • Weight management

What Else Can Health Coaches Help With?

Since many clients don’t have a diagnosis, like diabetes, that has a definitive impact on their lifestyle, they may want a health coach for other reasons, including:

  • Eating healthy
  • Career changes
  • Life changes
  • Work-life balance
  • Decreasing stress
  • Enhancing sleep
  • Time management

Wellness coaches can even help with relationship stress or achieving long-term goals and visions.

Health Coach Values

Wellness coaches should have a broad understanding of natural and holistic solutions that can support a client’s health journey, including social skills and interactions that play a critical role in your client’s success. Three ways that health coaches do this are:

  • Support
  • Encouragement
  • Accountability

A health coach looks at all areas of wellbeing while providing unconditional support on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. The focus is on what is most important to the client.

This also means continuing to support your clients even when the going gets tough. Wellness is a long-term journey, and there will be times when providing encouragement and a listening ear are invaluable support for your client.

Accountability is one of the most critical parts of a client’s journey. Your client will set obtainable benchmarks, and you will be there to encourage your client towards their goals – one step at a time!

Wellness Coach vs. Occupational Therapy

If you’re asking “Aren’t wellness coaches the same as occupational therapists?”, the answer is a resounding “no!”. Wellness coaches and occupational therapists require different training and credentials.

Yet, many of their goals align, such as encouraging better health and wellness in the community and with individuals. Both can work in various settings and with groups or individuals. Just like occupational therapists can specialize in areas, such as pediatrics, orthopedics, neuro or rehab, wellness coaches can specialize with specific clientele or businesses.

Wellness coaches have two options for certification: the Certified Wellness Coach (CWC) program and Master Certified Wellness Coach (MWCW) program. Both programs can generally be completed based on your personal timeline and then require the completion of a final exam.

On the contrary, occupational therapists complete their undergraduate studies before applying to a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (ODT) or Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program. After acceptance and completion of an OPT program, future therapists sit for the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination. From there, they will have the license to work in their state as OTs, based on each state’s unique licensing requirements. 

Certified occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) have a shorter and more streamlined route, much like a physician’s assistant program compared to medical school. 

OT’s and COTA’s are specifically trained to work with individuals on what matters most to them. They talk with their patient’s to find out what activities of daily living are the most important to them. Then together, they work on the skills and adaptations needed to meet their specific goals.

Combined Wellness Coach and OT

You can combine a wellness coach certification program with an OT or COTA career, as a qualified health coach institute teaches generalist viewpoints on overall wellness.

Anyone with an OT or COTA licensure is eligible for continuing their education with a health and wellness coaching certification, and will only increase their knowledge base and skill set by combining the two.

Catalyst Coaching Institute was just named as the only NBHWC-approved wellness coach certification to be an approved provider of continuing education by the American Occupational Therapy Association. We offer occupational therapists and COTA’s an established path to obtaining the CEUs they need to meet their professional requirements, while also providing the skills to incorporate health and wellness into their practices.

Combining a wellness coach certification and OT or COTA degree can also help with:

  • Increasing referrals
  • Expanding opportunities for business
  • Additional earnings as a side business
  • Increasing patient engagement
  • Rejuvenating your practice or providing a spark in your career

Certified Wellness Coach Program

The CWC program is uniquely designed for anyone starting out with wellness coach training. The Fast Track Wellness Coach Certification begins with a two-day, virtual event that you can do from the comfort of your home. In addition, you’ll compliment this focused training with the following:

  • 12 wellness webinars
  • Three practice coaching sessions
  • Practical coaching skills assessment
  • Online final exam

The CWC program is an excellent option for expanding a skillset in occupational therapy or looking at a side business. After completing the CWC program, you can continue on to MCWC if you’d like to pursue national board certification through the NBHWC.

Master Certified Wellness Coach Program

The MCWC program helps you qualify for the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) certification. If you want to become a nationally certified health and wellness coach, also known as NBC-HWC, you must pass the certifying examination.

With the CWC program, prospective individuals can achieve the proper training needed. Here are some additional features of the Master Certified Wellness Coach program:

  • 18 hours of live training sessions
  • Interactive courses
  • 12 recorded webinars
  • 36 contact hours

The benefit of the MCWC through Catalyst Coaching Institute is that it aligns with your work schedule. Most interactive courses and webinars can be completed during evening hours, allowing you to continue working as you complete the program.

Additionally, we offer six-month, interest-free financing to help you get your career going faster if that’s helpful to your decision and timing.

Health Coaches and Public Health

Health professionals who help patients with sustainable and modifiable changes in their lifestyle can help fight against preventable diseases, as well as improve the health and wellbeing of those diagnosed with chronic illnesses.

Health coaching arose within the healthcare industry to help meet the needs of patients in and out of professional healthcare settings with supportive, comprehensive healthcare that treats the patient as a whole.

Health and wellness coaches are cost-friendly professionals that may help address critical deficits within the public health system.

Researchers speculate that integrating health coaches more fully into society will help:

  • Improve community and individual health
  • Increase patient engagement with health
  • Support the healthcare community

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to help patients manage stress, life changes, and lifestyle choices became increasingly critical, as physicians and other health providers were limited in their capacity to follow up with patients. Alternatively, health coaches have more capacity to work with patients long-term.

Market Yourself

Once you obtain a health coach certification, you may decide to start your own coaching business or offer coaching within your practice. This involves marketing your expanded skillset. With a background in occupational therapy, you can emphasize your expertise and extensive knowledge in the health field. Focus on your credentials and any areas of specialty you’ve worked in as an occupational therapist or certified occupational therapist assistant.

You may also consider specializing in an area that you’re passionate about, such as employee wellness programs, or self-care strategies for working individuals. If you target a specific demographic, you can reach out to the associated businesses, gyms, schools, etc. to find your ideal clients.

Job Outlook for Occupational Therapy

The average median pay for occupational therapists is about $85,000 annually. During 2021, there were almost 134,000 jobs available, with an expected increase by 14% in occupational therapy jobs over the next decade – much faster than growth averages in other sectors.

Adding in health coaching is an expanding career choice for those who want to step away from hands-on clinical work or want to broaden their business.

Job Outlook for Health Coaches

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have specific data on health coaches, but you can pull up projections for health education specialists. As of 2020, there were over 125,000 jobs.

Similar to occupational therapy, the outlook for health education is growing substantially. During the next decade, the projected job opportunity growth is 17%, similar to projections for fitness and athletic trainers.

These statistics are evidence that the expansive public health field is continuously growing, and that you can only benefit your career by adding health coach credentials and training.

The average salary for a health coach ranges from $35,000 to $80,000. With a background in occupational therapy, you could also consider working as an independent practitioner and set your own rates and schedule.

Become a Certified Wellness Coach

Health professionals with backgrounds in occupational therapy, nutrition, and other medical careers thrive in this program. A certified wellness coach can open doors for independent work, increased referrals, and a more fulfilling career. What are you waiting for?

Expand your OT or COTA career by enrolling with Catalyst Coaching Institute today

More questions? Check out our page for OTs and PTs or schedule a free consultation with our chief learning officer.

Additional Resources

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