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Wellness Coaching or Life Coaching: Distinctions and Similarities

By: Patrick Williams, EdD, MCC, BCC

Having just returned from presenting the closing keynote address at my 10th National Wellness Conference, sponsored by the National Wellness Institute, I left with an observation of how wellness coaching and life coaching have intersected and yet still present some specific distinctions. When I first attended the National Wellness Conference in 2002, there were only two workshops on coaching in wellness. Today, coaching classes and coaching strategies permeate the conference.

It was great to see Jim Strohecker, who teaches the Wellness Inventory classes with ILCT, receive the Circle of Leadership award for outstanding contributions to the field of wellness and service to the National Wellness Institute at the aforementioned NWC conference this year. Congratulations!

While it is good to see the ‘wellness industry’ endorse and embrace the coach approach, it is also a bit concerning to see the definition become wider and more inclusive of strategies that are not coaching as we know it. Health coaching, for an example, by definition should probably be in the hands of someone with expertise and training in a health related field. Many hospitals and health corporations are adding coaches to their staff to insure and encourage patient followup and sustainable care approaches. Wellness coaching is more about a lasting lifestyle change (see Michael Arloski’s book Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change.) Dr. Arloski also taught his 30-hour Wellness Coaching class with ILCT numerous times.

Here at ILCT we do offer numerous elective courses in wellness, which can be added to our ICF credentialing paths or to the Board Certified Coach credential program, which offers the opportunity for a Wellness designation.

I am a bit concerned with public confusion in my opinion of who can call themselves a certified coach, and why. I am all in favor of standards so the public has a better idea of who is a qualified coach and who may not be. However, the profession may be adding to the confusion now with multiple new organizations offering credentialing - the questions are which one has the better standards, ethics, exams of proficiency, recognition, etc. Maybe it’s because I have been a coach professionally since 1990. My hope is that all who read this choose how they want to practice, who they want for clients, seek quality training and then have some credential (BCC, PCC, or others) that also have ethical behaviors attached to them.

As Coaches, we are not providing medical treatment or something as risky as brain surgery. We are offering ourselves as a mirror and confidante to our clients to give them the platform to design the life they want. And this sometimes can lead to emotionally charged events or life changes, and the coaching relationship can be a helpful venue for those desired changes.

My request. Get the best training you can, hire the best coach you can to mentor you, learn from your clients, stay ethical, and move to some level of certification. You don't need to put the whole alphabet behind your name. Its what’s in your heart and soul that shows up with clients.

Peace out.

Dr. Pat