Our wellness partner INTERVENT looks at the power of health coaching

Is health and wellness coaching a part of your employee benefits plan? Brenda Wright, PHD, from our wellness partner INTERVENT Internationalexplains what coaching is and the growing use of it… Take it away Dr Wright. 

Health and wellness coaching has been offered around the world for more than 20 years to provide health improvement and chronic disease management programmes, services and benefits to employees in the workplace. In addition to the workplace, coaching programmes have been successfully implemented in other settings, including medical clinics, hospitals and rehabilitation and fitness centres.

Coaching delivered “virtually” via the telephone and internet by non-physicians (for example, nurses, registered dietitians/nutritionists, exercise physiologists, health educators) has been proven to be as effective as face-to-face, in-person coaching.

For organisations, a major advantage of telehealth coaching is that it can be delivered at a substantially lower cost since it allows for greater scheduling flexibility. Employees appreciate the convenience of not having to travel to an onsite appointment. Telehealth coaching is taking on even greater importance in the era of COVID-19 and beyond.

Health and wellness coaches deliver individualised lifestyle management interventions on a variety of topics including healthy eating, physical activity/exercise, weight management, tobacco cessation, stress management/resiliency, risk factor reduction, chronic disease management, fatigue management/sleep hygiene and other important aspects of preventive care and chronic condition management.

Health and wellness coaches deliver individualised lifestyle management interventions on a variety of topics including healthy eating, physical activity/exercise, weight management, tobacco cessation, stress management/resiliency, risk factor reduction, chronic disease management, fatigue management/sleep hygiene and other important aspects of preventive care and chronic condition management. Ideally, health coaching is integrated with and supplements the care provided by employees’ healthcare providers. If a coach recognises that a behaviour or risk is outside the scope of the specific health coaching programme, the coach will make an appropriate referral or transfer to the employee’s personal healthcare provider or other resource, such as an employee assistance programme, if available.

Providing support
Health and wellness coaching is intended to help people make and adhere to meaningful lifestyle changes through the development of a supportive, trusting relationship that facilitates behaviour change and personal goal attainment. Most people who have achieved a major life goal can identify one or more people (perhaps a parent, friend, teacher or work colleague) who provided an important source of support. Coaches are trained to provide at least these two unique types of support.

  • Technical assistance – support provided only by someone with knowledge, training and insight into health and wellness issues. It is important that participants can trust that the information provided by health coaches is credible, evidence-based, reliable and valid.
  • Technical challenge – support that holds participants accountable for the goals and actions they set for themselves. Health coaches ask “tough” questions about participants’ values, confidence, commitment and progress from session to session. Participants in coaching programmes say that having their coach as an accountability partner helps develop self-responsibility and self-efficacy. 

Models of behaviour change 
Coaching is delivered using behavioural interventions derived from well-established behaviour change models. Popular models include the stages of change (transtheoretical model), adult learning principles, single concept learning, social learning theory and positive psychology. Most coaches use an eclectic approach to personalise each participant’s experience.

Interventions for change are more successful when processes of change are matched to the individual’s stage of readiness. Cognitive processes are generally emphasised in the earlier stages with behavioural processes beginning in the preparation stage.  

Cognitive processes of change

Behavioural processes of change

  • Increasing knowledge about a topic or behaviour
  • Comprehending the benefits of making a change and consequences or risks of not changing
  • Increasing internal motivation for change
  • Assessing and monitoring attitudes, beliefs and habits
  • Weighing “pros” and “cons” of changing
  • Building confidence and commitment
  • Analysing and challenging thoughts
  • Substituting a positive behaviour for a negative one
  • Avoiding stimuli (“triggers”) that elicit problem behaviours
  • Arranging the environment to be supportive of new habits
  • Establishing supportive relationships with others
  • Communicating assertively
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Rewarding progress
  • Dealing with and learning from slips and setbacks

Current and future trends in coaching
Health coaching to help employees change problematic behaviours and manage chronic conditions is an area that is growing in interest and popularity, but what are the latest trends and what does the future hold for this interesting area of wellness?

  • Virtual coaching with technology – coaching over the telephone is rapidly evolving into virtual coaching where participants and coaches have the option for live face-to-face video conversations – something that has become a norm of everyday life during COVID-19. This option eliminates the barriers of confirming participant identify and makes non-verbal communication available to the participant and coach. Participant monitoring devices, such as step counters and blood glucose monitors, also give coaches real-time, valid data regarding the participant’s behaviours and health status.
  • Use of coaching programmes that have been proven to be effective in peer-reviewed published studies – health coaching programmes need to be well designed and carefully executed in order to result in meaningful clinical benefits. Not all programmes are equally effective. 
  • Closer integration between health coaching programmes and medical care – evidence-based health coaching programmes can be leveraged to empower doctors and their patients to better prevent and manage chronic medical conditions.  
  • Board certification of health and wellness coaches – since 2016, the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) has collaborated with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) in the United States to provide a robust board certification examination which has led to more than 5,000 National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches.2 At INTERVENT we’re proud to be an approved coach training organisation and that our coaches hold this credential.3 Certification isn’t a trend just limited to the US – there’s growing global interest in coaching. Individuals (and employers) are turning to certified coaches to help manage chronic conditions.

How can employers implement health and wellness coaching?
Of course, a well-rounded wellness strategy goes beyond offering coaching. Ideally, employers should create an environment and culture supportive of mental and physical health and provide wellness programmes designed to address the differing needs, interests and preferences of today’s employees.

Chronic conditions are one of the biggest problem areas for employees and are becoming increasingly costly for employers. With rising rates of chronic conditions related to lifestyle, implementing a coaching programme is a great way to begin tackling this issue and supporting employees to make healthy changes.

We would always advise implementing wellness and health coaching programmes that have been proven to work, with highly trained coaches that can help participants make meaningful change. In the era of COVID-19 and beyond, employers can no longer afford not to implement effective chronic disease prevention and management programmes – the cost of failing to do so is simply too great. 

Thanks for the insight into health coaching, Dr Wright. If you’d like to find out more about planning holistic wellness programmes, watch the video below and find out more about INTERVENT’s solutions for multinationals by contacting your MAXIS GBN representative or by clicking here.

1 INTERVENT International LLC incorporated and registered in United States of America whose registered office is at 340 Eisenhower Drive, Building 1400, Suite 17, Savannah, GA 31406, United States of America
2 Anon, National Board for Health & Wellness Coaches (sourced April 2021)
3 In January 2021, INTERVENT’s Health and Wellness Coach Training and Education Programme received approval by NBHWC. The INTERVENT training programme, which is offered to all coaches employed by INTERVENT as well as to coaches from the community at large, was initially approved as a NBHWC transition programme in 2016. 
4 MAXIS GBN may receive fees, commissions and/or other remuneration from third parties in connection with the services we carry out for you.