Health Coach Programs - Here's What to Look For | Chris Kresser

Becoming a Health Coach? Here’s What to Look For in a Training Program

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

I’ve said it before: conventional medicine can’t stop the spread of chronic disease, but health coaching can make an impact.

Becoming a health coach
If you’re thinking of becoming a health coach, look for a training program that’s well-equipped to prepare you for this growing profession. iStock/FlamingoImages

But which skills do you need to develop to become a successful health coach? And what should you look for in a health coach training program? Read on to find out.

Six out of 10 adults have a chronic disease, but you can help. By becoming a health coach, you have the chance to act as a change agent for your future clients. Find out what to look for in a training program and take the next steps on your journey. #iamachangeagent #wellness

Why We Need Health Coaches Now More Than Ever

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Source: (1, 2)

Those numbers may seem bleak, but there is a solution: health coaches. Health coaches support their clients as they learn how to change their habits and daily behavior. That’s a major factor in preventing chronic disease, since 85 percent of chronic diseases have nothing to do with genetics, and everything to do with lifestyle. (3)

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Source: (4)

As we all know, change is hard, and trying to get someone else to change is even harder. But that’s where you, the health coach, come in.

Health Coaching Is an Art, and You Need a Program That Helps You Master It

Your biggest role as a health coach is to act as a guide to your clients. You’re not there to lecture; you’re not there to prescribe. You’re there to empower them to make healthier choices for themselves.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Mastering these skills takes practice. It’s much more involved than completing reading assignments or attending a lecture. You’ll need to take the information you read about and apply it yourself in your day-to-day life. And the best training program will encourage you to spend the majority of your time practicing, not memorizing.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Sources: (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

You Need an Education in Functional Health and Nutrition, Too

Conventional healthcare can’t stop the spread of chronic illness because it isn’t concerned with prevention. When conventional practitioners are faced with ongoing health problems, often their only recourse is to prescribe medication that controls symptoms but does nothing to alleviate the cause of the illness.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Sources: (14, 15, 16)

As a health coach, your aim should be to encourage clients to improve their overall health and wellness—and there’s no better way to support that than by embracing Functional Medicine and ancestral health. Compared to conventional medicine, these approaches emphasize disease prevention, not disease management.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Sources: (17, 18)

Learning about Paleo nutrition, sleep hygiene, stress-relief techniques, and other ancestral health topics will help you support your clients in a real way that doesn’t just suppress symptoms. You’ll learn how to help them realign their bodies with their environment and get free of chronic disease.

Becoming a Health Coach Means Building and Growing a Business

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Sources: (19, 20, 21)

If you want to join that trend as a successful coach, you’ll need more than an education into behavior change and health—you’ll need to know how to market yourself, network, and potentially even run your own business.

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Health coaches can work in a variety of settings. You may want to work in your own private business, coaching clients one-on-one; or you might prefer to work in a clinical setting alongside a Functional Medicine practitioner. You can even find work in a corporate or business setting—in fact, 67 percent of companies either have hired or plan to hire health coaches as part of employee wellness programs. (22)

Depending on which path you choose, you may need to tap into entrepreneurial skills to build your own start-up, or you may have to rely on your networking skills to link you up with existing clinics or businesses looking for someone with the skill set of a health coach.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Look for a Health Coach Training Program that Supports Learning

If you want to get started helping people, you need a program that uses evidence-based teaching methods and gives you the best chance to learn.

Cramming a ton of information all at once doesn’t work. You may be able to memorize information long enough to pass a test, but you’re unlikely to retain it for long. Retrieval practice, on the other hand, strengthens your memory and interrupts your brain from forgetting vital information.

Retrieval practice involves drilling yourself on the information you learn, rather than passively absorbing it. (23) It means actively quizzing yourself on your knowledge regularly and repeatedly, so when a challenging situation arises with a future client, you’ll know which steps to take to help them.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

Sources: (24, 25)

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

You Should Walk Away with a Certification

Graduating from a health coaching training program with a certification in tow can help you signal to your potential clients that you’re part of a greater movement in healthcare—and you’re well equipped to help them improve their health. No matter what training program you choose, you should earn a certification once you graduate.

In the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program, we offer the ADAPT-Certified Functional Health Coach (A-CFHC) certification.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program

The standards we set in the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program also line up with those set by the NBHWC (or the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching). Through a partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), NBHWC has developed rigorous standards for health coach education and training, as well as their own certifying exam.

Your training should prepare you for the challenges you’ll face as a health coach. Look for a program that trains you in the skills you need—and awards your hard work with a certification.

I hope this has helped you as you consider taking the next steps on this exciting journey. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a health coach, check out my webinar for three keys to succeeding in the profession.

Chris Kresser Infographic - Becoming a Health Coach? How to Choose a Health Coach Training Program