Feel That You Don't Have Enough Experience?

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

We all feel inadequate at times – even the most experienced coaches and professionals. It just happens. We’re human. 

And Jill and I have found that feelings of inadequacy are rampant in the health coach community, which can mean that coaches aren’t “stepping out” like they should, are hiding out behind perfectionism (Jill and I have both been there!), and as a result, aren’t changing the lives that they set out to change when they got into coaching in the first place!

It often goes like:

“I don’t know enough.”
“My certification program wasn’t thorough enough.”
“Look at so and so and all they’re doing with their business.” (Comparing and despairing.)
“I need more business training.” (A recipe for spending more than you’re making.)
“I haven’t worked with enough clients.” 

We’re here to tell you that you CAN help people, even if you’re just starting out and even if, up to now, you’ve worked with just a few people. I wanted to offer a sneak peek into our practice and how we help clients – Jill and I feel that all of the seven tenets outlined below are applicable, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned coach.

They’re relevant no matter where you – or they – are, but first, I want to start by talking about supplementation.

As health coaches, we can’t “prescribe” supplements. Even making herbal recommendations is tricky – we should proceed with caution and the right language. Plants are powerful and we’re not licensed herbalists, doctors, or pharmacists (well, some health coaches are), with extensive training on plant and drug interactions and the license to advise clients on the matter. (Even the language (“client” vs. “patient”) reminds us of our different roles.)

I don’t not talk about supplements with my clients, but I use language that is:

(1)  truthful
(2)  within my scope of practice as a coach 

I tell clients what I’ve seen work with my prior clients (and Jill’s prior clients) who’ve had similar symptoms and conditions, but I’ll remind them that:

  • Everyone is bio-individual
  • I’m not a licensed healthcare provider
  • They should consult with one before making any changes 

It can be difficult not to say more. There’s a little tyrant inside me who’s sure she knows what a specific client should add (or subtract) to her supplement routine.

But the ability to recommend supplements does not an effective health coach make! [<< If anyone who took my recent health writing course, Health Writer’s Studio, wants to comment on the atypical and intentionally poetic sentence structure in the previous sentence, I’d love it! Leave me a message in the comments below. ;)]

Coaches can play many essential roles in helping people overcome health challenges — roles that go far beyond recommending supplements and helping to strategize healthful eating plans.

Here are some of the simple ways I’ve coached clients — ways that don’t stray out of my scope of practice, but that do offer them newfound motivation and hope. Many times, when I’ve used of one of these approaches, clients will say, “Wow, that really helped me a lot.

Walk them through what to expect with other practitioners.
Are they going to see a functional medicine doctor for the first time? Tell them about the testing and what to expect. Should they anticipate blood tests, stool tests, urine tests, saliva tests? What tests should they ask for? Which ones might be less critical? What questions should they ask the doctor while they have his or her attention? What info should they bring with them to the doctor?

Walk them through what to expect with your protocol.
Let’s say you want guide a client through a food plan that boosts mitochondrial function. Mito food plans tend to be high fat, low carb, and time intensive (a lot of macronutrient tracking). Be honest with clients upfront. Tell them about the potential challenges; don’t mince words. 

I usually say something like, “I’m going to be straight with you: this plan can be challenging. Here’s how I’d start out, here’s what can make things easier, and here’s what you might experience…” or “I’m not going to lie to you. This food plan can be challenging initially. It takes time, at least at first, and requires a brand new approach to eating. Are you willing to try it?”

I’ve never had a client say, “Wow, I hate your honesty.” And 90 percent of the time, they say, “I appreciate your honesty and I’m ready for the challenge!” It’s also a win for the 10 percent who say, “Nope, I can’t do that” because then you can work together to find a plan that they will adhere to. Making smaller, incremental changes or finding a different strategy that the client will actually implement is far superior to her doing nothing at all — which is what happens if you force them to try a protocol that they’re unwilling or unable to do.

Describe the success you’ve seen with other clients.
You’ve worked with people. They’ve gotten better. You feel really proud and satisfied. Your clients feel healthier and happier. 

When you’re working with new clients, tell them about what you’ve seen work in the past and how well those clients are doing now. Human beings are more motivated to move toward something positive than to move away from a potential negative. (If knowing about danger were enough to stop us from making unhealthy choices, no one would smoke or eat Doritos or chronically skimp on sleep.) 

But show people what it looks like to live in a happier, healthier, and symptom-free world? Illustrate it with real life examples? They’re more likely to take action. (This is one of the reasons it’s so important to get those testimonials!) 

Most people haven’t had someone listen to them — really hear and absorb what they’re saying — in as long as they can remember. The straightforward (though not always simple) act of listening is profoundly healing. As the practitioner in the relationship, we sometimes get carried away and think we have to do all the talking, instructing, and engaging. Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is simply – listen.

Meet your clients where they are…
Clients will come to you in wildly different places. Many will be far long the “getting healthy” spectrum — they have a robust self-care practice, wouldn’t dream of eating Little Debbies, get regular acupuncture, and take sleep seriously.

Others show up on your doorstep with a six-pack of Diet Coke in one hand, a can of fat-free Pringles in the other, and a long history of falling asleep every night in front a giant-screen TV, watching one of the Fast & Furious movies. (Okay, full disclosure: I love the Fast & Furious movies. I know, I know. You get to be appalled. You can leave your shock and disbelief in the comments below, too. ;) But I would never watch them before bed or anywhere near bedtime or, heaven forbid, on a TV in the bedroom. No TVs in the bedroom ever! And no screens 1.5 hours before bed! That goes for you, too!)

If you start with a client who has unhealthy, deeply entrenched habits, start small, listen closely to their story, and find out what steps they might be willing to take. Baby steps will make you both happier and, ultimately, more successful.

…though don’t shy away from the non-negotiables.
Getting a client to go from six diet sodas a day to four a day is a giant initial win, but if that client has Celiac, cutting out gluten is non-negotiable. Be kind, but be clear about anything that’s a true deal-breaker. When the health consequences are well-established and serious, it’s far better for people to be mad at the messenger (you) but make the necessary change, than it is for them to like you and stay sick.

Engage in radical self-care
You can’t help others if you don’t feel healthy. Sometimes, putting your needs first is the absolute best way to serve others.

I’d love to hear how you work with clients. Please share in the comments below!

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

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