What is Health Coaching?

What is a National Board-Certified Health Coach?

Certified Health Coaches are credentialed members of the healthcare industry who have additional training in the science of health behavior change. Health coaches add coaching skills to their health care expertise to help patients better manage a variety of chronic medical conditions, such as: metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and chronic pain.

A Health Coach is a partner in an individual's behavior change process. This process involves supporting the patient or client as they set goals, unearth values & strengths, and access intrinsic motivations to encourage the development of sustainable healthy behaviors and attitudes.

Whether you work as an independent Health Coach or as a Health Care Provider that uses these skills, being trained as a Health Coach can elevate the level of care you provide to patients. 

Potential Job Titles for Health Coaches include:

  • Health Coach
  • Clinical Health Coach
  • Integrative Health Coach
  • Care Coordinator
  • Transitions Coach
  • Disease Management Nurse
  • The Nationally Board Certified Health Coach has many practice settings from which to choose.

    These include but are not limited to:

    • Medical Offices
    • Integrative Medicine Practices
    • Private Practice
    • Health Departments
    • Hospitals
    • Universities
    • Insurance companies
    • Innovative Start-Ups
  • The Vanderbilt University Medical Center and The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt’s certification program is a 12-20 month program with over 100 hours of course study.

    The curriculum emphasizes acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to provide health coaching for patients at each stage along the health spectrum, from wellness to those managing chronic illness and disease.

    This course also has a heavy emphasis on self-care and self-awareness, which is the core of the health coaching experience. The program is offered in a modified distance format with two on-campus intensives.

    The Health Coaching Program requires a significant amount of out-of-classroom study time and group work. In earning your certificate in Health Coaching, your educational experience will include:

    Web-based and onsite modules:

    • Foundations in Health Coaching
    • Patient-Centered Approach
    • Behavior Change Theory and Application
    • Health Coaching Skills & Tools
    • Health Coaching Application
    • Disease-Specific Coaching
    • Mindfulness
    • Motivational Interviewing
    • Positive Psychology
    • Scope of Practice, Referrals, and Ethics
    • Health Coaching Research

    Intensive health coaching practice:

    • Weekly telephonic coaching sessions with peers
    • Real-time faculty feedback
    • Onsite patient simulation lab
    • Mentorship while coaching medical patients

    Personal engagement in the health change process:

    • Experiential work with Positive Psychology & Mindfulness
    • Personal Change Project
  • Dr. Ruth Wolever, PhD, NBC-HWC is the Director of Vanderbilt Health Coaching: Research, Practice & Education and an Associate Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, with secondary appointments in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Meharry Medical College.

    Ruth is a clinical health psychologist with over 25 years of experience training and mentoring medical and allied health professionals in behavioral medicine, emotional health, and coaching. She also has 25 years of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating behavior change programs for medical patients and those at risk for chronic disease. She is an internationally recognized expert on Health and Wellness Coaching, a founding member and the Inaugural President of the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching, a non-profit organization whose mission is to elevate the practice of health coaching through rigorous standards. 

    Dr. Wolever is also an international leader in the study of mindfulness-based approaches to self-regulation and lifestyle change (particularly stress and eating behaviors, binge eating, weight loss, and weight loss maintenance), as well as innovative treatments for medication adherence, insomnia, tinnitus, and other stress-related disorders. Her clinical research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NCCAM - now NCCIH, Office of Women’s Health, NHLBI, NIDCD, and NIDDK), the United States Air Force, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, industry, and philanthropy. Ruth is particularly interested in the intersection of mindfulness, behavior change, and inter-professional training.

    Dr. Wolever has served as an expert in emotional health and behavior change for Everyday Health on the web, for GlaxoSmithKline, for Nurtur (a fully-owned subsidiary of Centene), for the Samueli Institute, for Nokia, and for clinics on better integrating behavioral health into primary care models. Finally, Dr. Wolever serves as the Chief Scientific Officer for eMindful.

    *Dr. Wolever's research referenced in The New York Times*