How Integrating a Health Coach Can Transform Your Practice

How Integrating a Health Coach Can Transform Your Practice


"Information is not knowledge."

Albert Einstein

Patients often “know what they need to do,” but applying information is where the rubber hits the road.

The success of functional medicine is dependent on how well the patient can take the information and implement lifestyle changes in their unique and correct circumstances.

Information + Application = Knowledge. And knowledge is power.

Application (behavior change) is the health coach’s scope of practice.

Want more engaged patients who get better results from working with you?

Then it’s time to integrate a health coach into your practice.

While health coaches and practitioners may once have been viewed as competing for the same role – or offering completely different services – it’s now time to embrace them as a symbiotic relationship that, when executed properly, creates patients who are better prepared, educated, engaged, activated, and, therefore, get better results.

In my own experience working as a health coach with Dr. Nathan Morris at Good Medicine, in addition to helping many other practices integrate health coaches, I’ve seen firsthand how great coaches let practitioners shine in their role as healers.

Maybe you’re ready to add a health coach to your practice… or maybe you’ve never considered the idea before. Today, let’s explore not only why your practice can benefit from the addition of a health coach, but exactly what a health coach will and won’t do.

Health coaches educate, empower and prepare patients

Every practitioner has had the experience of meeting with a patient for the first time who is in a state of crisis. That emotional distress prohibits change and diminishes the patient’s ability to communicate and remember important guidance and recommendations.

Instead of treating the patient, the practitioner winds up in more of a coaching role – having to explain, educate, and comfort patients. This is not only challenging for the practitioner, but it prevents them from using their true gifts of healing.

In contrast, when a health coach leads the first encounter, they get to do what they do best: coach. They can help define goals, educate the patient in the functional medicine process, and act as emotional support when needed.

When the patient then meets with the practitioner, they are ready to dive into the work of healing.

What a good health coach does

A good health coach is trained in Motivational Interviewing and Positive Psychology, as well as identifying Character Strengths, Stages of Change, and utilizes tools like Appreciative Inquiry, and Decision Balance to assist patients to resolve ambivalence. The provider-patient partnership is what makes Functional Medicine successful. The coach helps to create a therapeutic partnership by:

  • Empowering the patients to build on what they are already doing well
  • Identifying character strengths and other resources to build on what is going well and identify what to rely on in times of adversity or to circumnavigate challenges
  • Reducing stress from both the provider and the patient since the patient has been introduced to their role and responsibilities as an equal, therapeutic partner
  • Igniting patient activation by breaking down recommendations into incremental steps that are a match to the patient’s current ability
  • Optimizing outcomes since any instant gratification expectations have been transformed to a commitment to the functional medicine process and partnership
  • Enhancing patient retention since overwhelming has been mitigated, thus improving your practice’s bottom line.

The health coach has the ability to partner with the patient, listen to them, find a way they can set manageable goals, and be their accountability partner.

Addressing the #1 objection to health coaching

The benefits of integrating a coach are clear, but many practitioners are still hesitant because of the misconception that health coaches will prescribe diet and lifestyle plans.

Understandably, practitioners don’t want a health coach prescribing nutritional or lifestyle recommendations to their patients. That is the role of the practitioner.

The role of the health coach is to support the implementation of the practitioner’s recommendation.

The practitioner prescribes the health coach helps implement.

A health coach does not:

  • Recommend supplements
  • Recommend diet plans
  • Interpret Diagnostic Labs
  • Diagnose

When the roles of both the practitioner and health coach are clearly defined, they can thrive working together.

Is your interest in integrating a health coach into your practice piqued? To better understand why I evolved the health coach workflow in clinical practice, read this blog, Why Evolve the Health Coaching Workflow, and this one, Coaching Isn’t an Add On, It’s a Must for Your Practice. 

Therapeutic Partnerships Roadmap Course

The Therapeutic Partnership Roadmap is a new course for functional medicine practitioners to help you effectively design and streamline your operation systems. This ensures you get the right patients through the door, empower the patient to be your equal partner, and keep them engaged long enough to experience profound clinical outcomes.

Previous Post