The Future of Coaching

Leigh-Ann Webster

Leigh-Ann Webster, NHBWC, Catalyst Podcast
Catalyst - Health, Wellness & Performance Podcast

Full Transcript

Dr. Cooper: 0:04

Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness and Performance Podcast. Thank you so much for the support that you’ve given this podcast. We’re now in the top 10 for health and wellness and number one for health and wellness coaching. And that is all about you. We are truly truly grateful to know that you’re finding this to be a valuable, evidence based resource for your career and your life on a weekly basis. I’m your host, Dr Bradford Cooper. And if you’re a coach or you’re thinking about heading in that direction, you’re not gonna want to miss this one. Leigh-Ann Webster is the executive director for the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching, the nonprofit that is partnered with the National Board of Medical Examiners to provide the national credentialing for health and wellness coaches. In addition, she’s also the owner of 52 healthy weeks, providing coaching and personal training for individuals. So she has the perspective from both sides of the equation.

If you’re already a health and wellness coach, please note that we offer a broad range of accredited online continuing education courses that are available to you. On the other hand, if you’re currently considering pursuing a career as a health and wellness coach, we have a complimentary new E book that we just posted at that provides a step by step pathway to the national board exam as well as an accredited at home fast track training that will allow you to qualify for becoming a national board certified coach before the requirements change this Fall. So you can check all that out at Or, as always, feel free to reach out to us, Results@Catalyst or I’m happy to set up some time to talk about your specific questions or Results@Catalyst With that, let’s jump into this conversation with Leigh-Ann Webster from the NBCHWC on the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Podcast. Leigh-Ann Webster, it is a privilege to have you back on. You’re the second person ever to join us a second time. So, welcome.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 2:01

Thank you so much for having me. Brad. I’m really happy to be here.

Dr. Cooper: 2:04

Well, this should be fun today. I think it will be really, really helpful to folks that are trying to figure out this path and wondering about if it’s the direction they want to take etc. Let start off at the baseline. Why was it so important to establish a national board exam for health and wellness coaches in the first place?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 2:20

That’s a really great question. If you look back at the history of health and wellness coaching, it grew rather quickly, you know, since about the year 2000 but it grew without any standards in place. What we had was an industry where people were identifying themselves as health and wellness coaches with absolutely no training. And then we had other people who were calling themselves health and wellness coaches with a lot of training. So we needed to establish a training and education standard for the field. And the board certification exam is essentially a reflection of that standard. So the credential represents the standard.

Dr. Cooper: 3:06

So let’s look at this from two perspectives now. What’s been the response to this national board certification? Let’s first talk about from coaches or potential coaches, and then I’d like to touch on the public as well. So, first of all, coaches.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 3:20

Many coaches who learn about us are very excited about the opportunity to become board certified. The board certification has a lot of value to them because one it represents a credential, it represents the time that they put into their training and education. But it also represents partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners. And if you’re not familiar with them, the N B M E is an organization that’s been around for 103 years, and they also board certify physicians. So coaches are very excited about the possibility of becoming board certified and integrating in the health care or employee wellness or working with the public. The flip side of that is that we’re still fairly new. The actual organization has been around since 2012 but it took us a long time to get the board certification up and running, and that didn’t start until 2017. So given the fact that we are still new, there are still plenty of people out there who are either just learning about the board certification or perhaps have been practicing as coaches for a long time, with not a whole lot of training and education, and when they learn about the opportunity, they’re interested, but definitely a little bit fearful of the, you know, the training and education that they’ll have to put in, in order to become board certified.

Dr. Cooper: 4:51

Right? Right. And how about from the public’s perspective?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 4:55

So we still do have some work to do in terms of educating the public about the fact that there is a national standard for health and wellness coaching. However, those people who are aware of the credential are very supportive of it, and I almost feel like a sense of relief when I talked to the public and they learned that there is a standard there. We also you know, now we have a national directory that has all of the board certified coaches listed or those who want to opt in. And that serves as a good resource for the public, who want to make sure that they’re hiring a coach that has been trained and educated and assessed.

Dr. Cooper: 5:35

And as of this recording in early April 2020, how many coaches have gone through and become certified?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 5:43

So we have 2363 national board certified health and wellness coaches, and then, in late April we’ll be announcing the exam results from the test that took place in February, and we’re expecting to have at least several hundred more.

Dr. Cooper: 6:01

Wow, so exciting! It’s come a long way very quickly. So what would you say to that established coach who’s maybe hearing this for the first time? Or maybe they’ve heard it through the grapevine, but they hadn’t really dug into it yet. What would your suggestions, advice, guidance be for that person that says, Look, I’ve been doing this for five years, 10 years, 15 years? Why do I need to get certified? I’m pretty good. I have pretty good clientele. What would be your, you’re sitting over coffee with that person, what would you say to him?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 6:32

So first, I would honor the fact that they probably are a good coach, you know, especially if they are asking about the board certification. I would also encourage them to think about taking a stand for their profession. And taking a stand means following a standard, right? So if you look at other industries and do research around other industries, anything from a dentist to an attorney, there was a time when those industries didn’t have standards in place and then over the years and, you know, a fairly long time ago in America. But over the years, those standards became common, and then they became required. So I think that I would encourage the person, the coach, to really take a look at what they want out of the profession and what they want to represent, and that this is a real opportunity for them to become a pioneer, really, in the profession of health and wellness coaching and be a leader for the field because the credential is fairly, fairly young still.

Dr. Cooper: 7:37

I love the credibility as a profession. I think that’s one of the things we’re most excited about is the credibility the NBCHWC has brought to the entire industry of wellness and wellness coaching is powerful. So from many of us on the kind of the other side of spectrum, thank you for all the work that’s gone into that. What has surprised you most about this move towards certification? Have there been some things that as you go through it, you’re like, well, we didn’t see that coming, or that jumped out of nowhere.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 8:08

Oh boy, all of it. It’s hard, It’s difficult. I won’t lie. I think that, you know, we have an incredibly dedicated board of directors. They have been volunteering their time since, most of them have been volunteering their time since 2012. One of the things that surprised me the most is just how every decision we make impacts all the other decisions that we make and that it’s really important to have an overall strategic plan in place so that when you’re making a decision about eligibility or re-certification or partnerships, to really be sure that we’re thinking through all the pros and cons. So I think that’s just, it’s been surprising to me just how difficult it all is. You know, we’re doing something that’s never been done before. I think that’s really powerful, but it’s also difficult, and we’re just lucky that we’ve been able to have so many health and wellness coach training programs, like your program and others, and coaches who are really standing behind this.

Dr. Cooper: 9:17

It is an exciting time, and it seems to me to be ramping up quickly. Let me ask you that, in terms of the ramp up as a surprise. Did you think this soon we would have probably close to, if not more, than 3000 coaches a month from now?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 9:33

No, actually, we’ve been happy and surprised at the number of people who want to sit for the board certification exam. We obviously do a lot of marketing, and we’ve done a lot to build the community of national board certified coaches. But no, I think every time that we’ve had an exam application window, we have come close to doubling the numbers that we were expecting each time.

Dr. Cooper 9:59

Wow. Well, that’s exciting. Very exciting. So what’s the typical pass rate for the exam if you could give us some landmarks on that?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 10:09

So one thing to keep in mind is that because this exam is new and we’ve only delivered it five times at this point, we don’t have a passing score that you need to achieve, and we will eventually. But that takes time to develop. And that’s a whole process that has to do with working with the psychometrics, which we work with over at the National Board of Medical Examiners. It’s more complicated than I would have thought, sure, but what I can say is that to date, between 78 to 82% of the people who sit for the exam passed the exam.

Dr. Cooper: 10:47

And that sounds, I come out of the health care industry, that sounds similar to what we see in physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc. Is that kind of what you’re looking for in terms of that outcome?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 11:00

Well, what we’re looking for really is just to deliver a really robust exam and to make sure that the people who sit for the exam are qualified, which is why we have the eligibility requirements in place. And it just so happens that those have been the passing rate.

Dr. Cooper: 11:29

Perfect. Perfect. Well, that’s what people want to hear anyway. So that’s perfect. How do you see the exam evolving over time? We’ve talked a little bit about that and what’s happened over the last 2.5 years. What do you see happening over the next 5, 7 years?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 11:45

One of the things that we’d really like to see as an organization is the delivery during the exam of an actual assessment of one’s coaching skills. Hard to say if we’ll get there in five years, but we would definitely like to see that. We think it’s incredibly important, you know, it is one of the requirements for the health and wellness coach training programs that are delivering training and education. They also have to deliver a skills assessment. We would like to also have that skills assessment built into the exam down the road. But at this point, that’s just endeavor that we’ve been discussing but haven’t made any decisions about. And a lot of that has to do with funding. A lot of the decisions come down to money, and you know what’s the appropriate time to do it.

Dr. Cooper: 12:33

It’s interesting that makes perfect sense. And that fits again in with the other models of physical therapy, occupational therapy, advanced certifications, etc. So, I like that. Anything else, I don’t want to cut you short on that question.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 12:46

No, I think that’s the biggest change that we would probably see in terms of the actual exam. As you know, as one of our approved programs, we increase the standards, right? So back in 2015 when we first launched the standards, we had a very minimum bar set of 30 hours of training and education. And now that bar has been moved up to 75 hours of training and education. If you look at the exam, a lot of the questions, as we move forward will be based off of that 75 hours of training and education. So the exam over time reflects the new standards that are in place.

Dr. Cooper: 13:32

So for folks who are listening, she’s talking about the transition phase into the permanent phase. Can you walk us through just a few more details about the difference between the two and then any upcoming deadlines that people that are hearing this in real time might need to be aware of?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 13:47

Yes, definitely. So back in, I’m gonna back up to 2014 cause I think this is really important for people to know. In 2014 we brought together 60 subject matter experts in the field of health and wellness coaching. We brought them together in person in Indiana, and we had a facilitator who led us through what’s called the development of a job task analysis, and that’s when you identify the knowledge, tasks and skills that somebody needs to have in order to practice in a given profession. So this group of 60 identified more than 20 pieces of knowledge, tasks and skills that one should have for health and wellness coaching. And then we had that validated by over 1300 people who were practicing as health and wellness coaches throughout the United States. So it’s really important to know that piece because that job task analysis is reflected in the standards. So we created the initial set of standards and launched those in 2015. It was July of 2015 and that’s when programs such as yours applied to become approved transition phase programs. The reason that we had a a minimum set of standards was because we needed to allow for the industry to catch up right? Like it takes time for everybody to become aware of the fact that there is a standard in place now, and it takes time for the programs to get the proper faculties in place and the proper curriculum. So that’s what’s called the transition phase and anybody who’s graduated from an approved transition program, we have more than 50 of them, is eligible to sit for the exam through February of 2021. Okay, so about a little less than a year from now, the last exam in the transition phase will be provided, and the deadline to meet all of the eligibility requirements for that exam is on October 30th of 2020. After October 30th of 2020, anybody who wants to sit for a future exam needs to complete a program that’s been approved under what we’re calling the 2018 standards. And if you go on our website, you’ll see you know, a list of all the programs from the transition phase and then a list of programs that have met the 2018 standards. And people graduating from a program from the 2018 standards can then sit for the exam indefinitely as we move forward.

Dr. Cooper: 16:35

Very helpful. Good stuff. And if everyone listening, it makes sense when you see it on paper, we’ll have some links for you to follow on that. The application deadline includes a log of 50 coaching sessions. Now, a lot of folks hear that and go, ah! It’s really not that difficult once you understand the details. What ideas do you have for where coaches can find clients? Some of the details around that, if they’re not yet working as a coach and they’re thinking, well, I can’t do that. I could do the education piece, but I’m never gonna get that. What guidance would you have for them?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 17:06

So I really like that question, and it is definitely a hiccup for a lot of people. I think what happens is a lot of people have a real passion for health. And so they decide to, you know, go through a health and wellness coach training program. And then they realize that they actually have to coach people, and not only do they have to coach and work with people, but some of the conversations are really challenging, and you have to be able to sit through uncomfortable moments and and let your clients figure things out. So it is challenging for people. But we do feel strongly that those 50 health and wellness coaching sessions really help someone when they’re sitting for the exam, and they also obviously help people become better at coaching and in the end that results in better outcomes. So when somebody calls and they’re asking, you know, well, do you have any suggestions for how I should acquire clients? I always tell them what I did, which was send an email to a group of your friends that you really trust and let them know that you’ve gone through this program and ask them if they might be able to refer you to somebody that you don’t know who might be interested in coaching. And that worked really well for me. And it seems to have worked well for a lot of other coaches who are trying to gain experience. Another opportunity might be, to, you know, if it’s a privately owned gym, perhaps go to that gym and offer to coach the clients at the gym. And you know, you make connections in your community and see what comes out of that. See what comes out of making connections from your chamber of commerce. So those are just some ideas.

Dr. Cooper: 18:58

That’s great. And one of the things we always clarify with folks is it’s not 50 people. It’s 50 coaching sessions, and that can be broken into a number, you could coach 10 people five times. So, it’s much easier than it sounds once you dig into the details.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 19:13

Yeah, it’s 50 coaching sessions in duration of 20 minutes or more. It could be paid sessions or pro bono sessions, and we just ask that they are not sessions that take place with friends or family.

Dr. Cooper: 19:27

Perfect. Perfect, very good. So where do things stand with billing insurance for coaching sessions? There’s some things that are happening since we spoke last year. We’re not quite there yet, but there’s been some progression. Can you talk us through that? And maybe where that’s heading?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 19:42

Yeah, so there’s been great progression. Let’s see, last April, we applied in partnership with the VA, the Veterans Administration. We applied for what’s called Category 3 CPT codes in health and wellness coaching, and you apply for these codes with the American Medical Association. So the thing about Category 3 codes is that they are used primarily for data collection, and that data is then used on the application to eventually apply for Category one codes, which are reimbursable. So back in April, we applied with the American Medical Association and we were granted Category 3 CPT codes, for Health and Wellness Coaching. And in the actual code, it specifies that you have to be a national board certified health and wellness coach or a health educator in order to use the codes. So we’re well on our way to gaining the momentum and the data that’s needed to apply for Category one codes, and that will likely take oh, probably 18 months to a few years in order to secure those category one codes. But it’s definitely something that we’re working on and we’re very excited about. You know, in addition, we have a reimbursement commission who is going to begin conversations with the payers. And if you’re not familiar with that term, payers means any of the health insurance providers. So examples would be like United Healthcare, Blue Cross, Etna, Pacific care. So, this is a part of our daily conversation, and we are making great strides moving in that direction.

Dr. Cooper: 21:36

Well, and we’ve had several physicians on his guests in the last few months, and they are consistent, hopefully this will be an encouragement to you as well, they are very consistent that we need health and wellness coaches involved. The physicians, their roles are changing, they continue to change. And the more we can get health wellness coaches engaged in the, or integrated into the health care system as a whole, the better off people will be and our system will be. So congratulations. That’s a big one. Well done.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 22:04

Yeah, thanks. It’s been hard. It’s been very challenging. I didn’t even know that I could have explained this topic to you the way I just did, I’ve learned a lot about the medical system and the American Medical Association. And it’s really great to hear that physicians are really starting to recognize the need for credentialed help from wellness coaches. So I think that’s great.

Dr. Cooper: 22:30

Yeah, absolutely. All right. So besides the change to the permanent phase and what we just talked about in terms of reimbursement, anything else on the horizon for the NBCHWC?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 22:40

Well, right now, we’re just doing a lot of outreach, letting a lot of organizations know about the fact that we exist. And the fact that there is now a standard for the profession, we’re really starting to do a lot of relationship building with health care providers and health care systems. So like organizations like John Hopkins and Kaiser and Cleveland Clinic, you know any large hospital systems out there. Also, just really strengthening the NBCHWC community and that represents the national board certified coaches. So we’re spending a lot of time working with those coaches, making sure they have proper messaging and really we’re a real support system for them as they build their careers in the field. That’s our main focus right now.

Dr. Cooper: 23:37

I love it, very valuable, and the meet ups are going very well. From everything we’re hearing.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 23:42

They are, they’re going very well. We have them going on throughout the country all the time.

Dr. Cooper: 23:48

And I just threw that in out of the blue because you and I know what it is. But can you explain what those are briefly, for anybody that’s saying, wait, what, a meet up?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 23:55

Yeah, so what we’ve done is identified people within the NBCHWC community who wanted to be what we call meet and greet leaders and these are National Board certified coaches who want to essentially lead their state or city depending on how big their state or city is, and, create opportunities for people to get together, either in person or online. And it’s a way for people to really get to know fellow coaches in their area. And, you know, we’re just seeing a lot of people get a lot out of those those meetings with each other.

Dr. Cooper 24:35

Very nice. And I cut you off. I think you were about to tell me something else that was related to that.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 24:40

I was, I wanted to talk about 18 months ago, we secured a grant with the American College of Preventive Medicine through the CDC to work on group coaching competencies for the DPP project. So the National Diabetes Prevention Coach Project that the CDC has. So we’re working on that as well. Which has been, you know, a big part of what we do. And as we have more information and as that project continues to grow, we’ll continue to release statements and information about how people can become involved.

Dr. Cooper: 25:21

Glad we got that in there. All right, so let’s turn, just a slight left turn here. How about you? You’re an experienced coach. Can you give folks listening who maybe are pondering the profession, but they haven’t taken that step yet. Give me a little peek behind the scenes. What’s it like being a coach? What are some of your favorite types of clients to coach? Just talk to us about that side for a minute.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 25:41

What are my favorite types of clients to coach? I personally like working with women who are trying to balance a career and a family simultaneously. I really enjoy that type of client. I think I enjoy it because I identify with it myself. So I enjoy working with women who really want to try to achieve balance in their life. I think in terms of what people would enjoy about coaching, you’re really giving back. And you’re really empowering people to live their best life. And a lot of times they already know the answers. But they just need a coach to really help draw those answers out of them and have somebody to talk things through with and figure things out with. So I just really, I enjoy the aspect of helping people.

Dr. Cooper: 26:38

Beautiful, beautiful. I think that’s one of the fascinating things to folks who come into the training thinking they need to bring a specific knowledge base, which is helpful. It’s great to have a great background, but that’s the whole idea of coaching. You’re not telling me what to do. You’re helping me discover it from me.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 27:00

Exactly. I think that the assumption when you are a coach is that the person that you’re working with is an expert in their own life, right? And so your job as the coach is a to help them see that they are in fact an expert in their own life and likely they know the answers. They just need to talk it out and and really find out what their intrinsic motivation really is so that they can make the changes that they’re desiring to make. And it’s hard work and its tough conversations. And you just, as a coach, you learn how to sit with somebody. I should say to sit beside somebody when they’re really figuring things out in their own life.

Dr. Cooper: 27:45

But there’s nothing more exciting. Like I just get even in our practice sessions in the training. When I’m observing another coach, I just get this, my heart just skips a beat because you see these things happening, that they don’t generally happen in people’s lives, and all of a sudden you’re seeing it happen right in front of you. I just, I don’t know if you get as fired up as I do about that, but that is just so energizing to see that happen.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 28:11

It is and yeah, and people are so grateful too. They’re very grateful when you work with them, because in a lot of cases, they’ve never had the opportunity to talk a lot of this stuff out. Yeah, it’s really rewarding, and I encourage anybody who’s thinking about becoming a coach to just send me an email or give me a call. And I’m happy to talk them through my own experiences and what they might want out of the career path.

Dr. Cooper: 28:38

And we have a few, we’ve done some live coaching sessions in these episodes, so folks listening, if you’re like well, wait, what are Leigh-Ann and Brad talking about, like this sounds different than what I thought coaching was. You can pop back and look at, listen to a couple of those and that might give an idea. All right, last question. What would you recommend to folks, who are, and you’ve given some of these already, but any final thoughts on what you’d recommend to people who are, they’re curious about health and wellness coaching, but they just don’t know a lot about it. What would be some next steps for them?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 29:07

That’s a really great question, Brad. I think the first thing I would say is please do your homework. Look at our website,

Dr. Cooper: 29:16

Which is an everyone

Leigh-Ann Webster: 29:20

Correct. Review the standards, ask questions. You know, when you’re reaching out to a health and wellness coach training program, ask them if they are approved by the national board for health and wellness coaching. And just be sure to set yourself up for success. Because what I see a lot of times is that somebody becomes very passionate. And then they rush into their decision and they choose the program that’s not approved, and then the next thing they know, they’ve completed this program, spent money to complete the program, and then they realize that they’re not qualified to sit for the exam and become board certified, and then they’re faced with either starting over or moving forward without that credential that has value. So take your time, do your homework, ask a lot of questions and talk to a few coaches. So you can really understand what the profession is and what people who are coaches do on a daily basis.

Dr. Cooper: 30:18

Excellent advice and and maybe even a little add on to that is the personalities or the approaches to the different programs. Like you said, there are options out there. Catalyst Coaching Institute, obviously, we’re prejudiced about that one, but you have a lot of other options. Make sure that their approach and their connection and their follow up fits you, like it’s your style. It’s your way of learning and all those kinds of things as well. Does that resonate at all?

Leigh-Ann Webster: 30:44

Oh, absolutely, I always say, and this is not the healthiest term, but I always say it’s like ice cream only there’s different flavors, you have to take the time to find out which flavor’s right for you.

Dr. Cooper: 30:58

I think ice cream is a great way for us to wrap up a conversation about the National Board for Health and Wellness coaching. Leigh-Ann, in all seriousness, thank you so much. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, and we really appreciate you taking the time to share with us today.

Leigh-Ann Webster: 31:10

Thank you, Brad, for having me. I really enjoyed the discussion.

Dr. Cooper: 31:18

Great insights and right from the source, thanks again to Leigh-Ann Webster for joining us and providing such outstanding insights about the direction we’re all heading nationally in this world of health and wellness coaching. Thank you also to you for joining us, your wonderful support of the show. If you enjoy the podcast, you might also enjoy our new Health Wellness and Performance coaching channel that we recently started on YouTube. That’s a place where we provide complimentary tools and resources to help coaches and others make the most of their careers and their lives. You can search on YouTube under Health, Wellness and Performance Coaching Channel, or we’ll have a link to the channel in the description section of this episode if you want to go that route. Now, folks, let’s go make the most of every single opportunity. There are so many pressures and stresses swirling around all of us right now, but it’s in the darkest hour when even a speck of light shines so very bright. Let’s be that light out there in the world today. This is Dr Bradford Cooper signing out. I look forward to speaking with you soon on the next episode of the Catalyst Health Wellness and Performance Podcast.