The first installment of our Coaching series discusses the importance of coaching and how it is essential in improving your professional life as well as that of your clients.


While most people long for better health and well-being, considerable evidence suggests that we're moving in the opposite direction. Consider the paradox despite continuous media focus on healthy lifestyles, there are now more overweight people than undernourished people worldwide. And the situation in the US is particularly serious a recent study shows that Americans are significantly less healthy and more overweight than Brits at the same age and socioeconomic level. 


Why the Paradox?

            While obesity is a multi-factorial problem, four factors, in particular, lead to unwisely choosing quick fixes that don't last and, in fact, jeopardize confidence (what psychologists refer to as self-efficacy). First, there are the demands of everyday life, which have never been greater. Second, many face a bewildering array of wellness guidelines, products and services, making it difficult to create a personal formula. Third, there is the challenge of making change, which is presented by personal obstacles, including innate resistance and ambivalence. Fourth, many consumers have histories of repeated failure. Most do not believe that they can master their weight and wellness.

            There is a need for professional competency that is designed to help people become confident and master wellness, one which is closely aligned with the new era of consumer-directed health care. Most consumers know intuitively what it takes to get well, and that knowledge is now supported by plenty of evidence. Two-thirds of health status is driven by daily choices we are in the driver's seat. In fact, according to Tal David Ben-Shahar, Professor of Positive Psychology at Harvard University, "Not exercising is a depressant." But knowledge is not enough.

            In today's society, there is a confidence crisis. Building confidence is now the key function of health care professionals, including personal trainers. And so, the well-trained professional wellness coaches are becoming the experts of choice in helping people build confidence in their abilities to be the bosses of their own health and well-being.


The Limitations of the Medical Expert Model

            The medical model is based upon experts providing prescriptions and advice, while health and fitness professionals invest heavily in becoming experts. With the best of intentions, telling people what to do, rather than making the client/patient do most of the thinking, deprives the opportunity to build confidence. The kind of partnership that increases confidence, such as a partnership with a wellness coach, is based on the unique skill set of a coach, which is entirely different from that of a medical expert. Coaches choose a conversational path, which fosters the growth of confidence in clients and engages and builds on their strengths. The coach/client interaction is designed to generate, for the client, high energy, positive emotions and increased readiness to change. As coaches, the sense of self-worth is bolstered more by observing clients figuring it out on their own than by offering a brilliant insight. Therefore, when working with a great coach, the client will say, "I am good," not "my coach is good."

            Further, the medical model is traditionally focused on illness, impairment and risk, not on building a bigger, brighter future. It is much harder to be confident when one is problem-focused rather than being energized by working toward a vision for the future.'


Integrating Coaching Psychology

            Wellness coaching is founded upon coaching psychology the relational sibling of positive psychology a new and fast-growing field dedicated to generating more meaning, life satisfaction and positive emotion as well as identifying and building on character strengths. This psychology rests on more than 15 theories and fields of psychology and is defining the values, skills and processes that deliver masterful coaching. Wellness coaching is new, and most health, lifestyle and wellness coaching models, while using the label coach, have not yet integrated coaching psychology into their coach training.


Therapy Versus Coaching

            Many share the perspective that the obesity crisis is a function of mental health as well as physical health; thus, the mental game is driving the physical game. Today, most therapists focus on emotional wounds and typically don't discuss exercise, diet and weight. In contrast, physical health professionals focus on the physical side. However, wellness coaches are trained to address both the physical and mental realms, drawing on positive psychology interventions to address mental health. Now, in a growing trend, therapists and physical health professionals are re-inventing themselves as wellness coaches.


The Coaching Future

            While it's wonderful to see the many new developments in the consumer-driven health care space to improve the quality of data and technology provided to consumers to make the best possible health decisions (how to select a physician, where to buy medicines, which surgeon or hospital to use), data and technology are not enough. If we want the consumer to become the master of his or her health and well-being, we must teach them a new life skill, a skill that they can learn in partnership with a wellness coach.

            Margaret Moore, BS, MBA, is the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation, which trains and certifies physical and mental health professionals as wellness coaches. She also co-founded the Coaching Psychology Institute at McLean Hospital (Harvard Medical School). For more information, email her at For additional resources about the importance of coaching, visit


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