Peer Reviewed

Can a Health Coach Help You?

By Sarah Conover, PT, MHS, CLCP, CHC

A certified health coach is a crucial addition to your medical team when it comes to persistent dizziness and related symptoms.

Consider looking for a health coach if you are struggling to navigate the healthcare system, or you have received medical treatment but continue to have symptom flares. Do you have a difficult time getting a full night’s sleep? Do you want to feel more energetic? Are you afraid of falling when you play with your kids? Is going to the grocery store overwhelming? Are you worried about losing your job? A health coach can help you find ways to cope with these daily life challenges.

Why do I need a health coach?

There are many benefits a health coach offers to people with chronic vestibular conditions:

  1. Big picture perspective: Living with persistent vestibular symptoms can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start to get help. A health coach can guide you by helping you gather information to decide what is the next best step.
  2. Guidance in finding other medical providers: People often go from doctor to doctor, looking for a diagnosis and medical treatment. A health coach can make this much easier by helping you know what type of medical providers to look for and what questions to ask. 
  3. Education: A health coach who is also a vestibular healthcare provider can teach you about the vestibular system. She can help you understand how anxiety and dizziness fit together and suggest ways to reduce stress and symptoms. With understanding comes relief. When we know the why’s and how’s about our health, then anxiety and symptoms are reduced or can even completely subside. 
  4. Support: When you are feeling hopeless, a health coach holds space for hope to blossom again. She believes in you during times it is difficult to believe in yourself. With time, she can coach you to regain your self-confidence.
  5. Accountability: Following through with all the recommendations for healthy living can be daunting, especially with a vestibular condition. The habits that are good for us are not necessarily the ones we feel like doing. A health coach can be the person who checks in with you to see how you are progressing toward your goals.
  6. Mindset: We know from research that the mind has a huge effect on both brain and body functions. A health coach knows how to ask you the right questions to get your thoughts in a place aligned with healing. Anxiety can be reduced with proper focus on mindset and what you value in life.
  7. Access: Health coaches are certified, not licensed. This means that access does not depend on state/province licensing regulations, making it possible to work with a health coach across the country or world. 

How do I know if a particular coach is right for me?

Coaches, like other providers, have varied expertise and experience. It’s important to do a little research before deciding on a health coach. You may wish to consider the following:

  1. Background in vestibular conditions. Do they know the pathophysiology of vestibular conditions? Look for a vestibular medical provider who is also a certified health coach and has years of experience working with people who have vestibular disorders, OR a coach with a vestibular condition who also has extraordinary knowledge in the field (these may be referred to as “wellness coaches”).  
  2. Reputable health coaching certification. Anyone can call themselves a coach. This makes it important for you to know what their credentials are. The National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC) is one of the top health coach credentialling organizations. To be certified though NSHC one must be a licensed healthcare provider and pass difficult testing. There are credentialling organizations with much lower standards and difficulty levels. If you are engaging with a coach who is not a medical professional, ask them about their credentialing and if they have personal experience with a vestibular condition. Refer to VeDA’s website for a list of health and wellness coaches who are also VeDA volunteers.
  3. Experience with clients like you. Ask the health coach you are considering to tell you about the experience they have with clients like you (e.g. do they solely work with people who suffer from vestibular disorders?). 
  4. Area of expertise. Coaches with a medical background will bring that field of knowledge into their coaching. Some might focus on nutrition or exercise. Some might teach mindfulness or meditation practices. Some combine life coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy with health coaching methods. Some will use a combination of coaching methods. Each of these styles can be helpful. 
  5. Different approaches. In addition to methods and styles, coaching philosophies can vary. These differences include recommendations for frequency of sessions, group vs one-on-one coaching, amount and type of homework given, access to the coach in between sessions, etc.  Ask a coach what aspects of coaching produce the best results for their clients; the answer they give will help you understand their approach. There is no single approach that outweighs others when it comes to coaching.   
  6. Personal connection. Don’t underestimate the benefit of the connection you have with a coach. Some offer a free consultation so you can get to know them before you hire them. A coach is not your best friend, but it is important to have a clinical relationship based in trust. 

What can I gain from a coach? 

  1. Better overall health through lifestyle habit implementation. Sleep, nutrition, and physical activity habits are discussed, assessed, and changed as needed to support your best overall health. This healthier framework supports better brain health, symptom management, healing, and daily functioning. 
  2. Support and accountability in balanced portions based on where you are in your journey.
  3. The vestibular facts, explanations, instructions, and processes taught to you according to your specific situations, limitations, and struggles. 
  4. Progress on the mindset journey. This means having awareness of your thoughts, and mastering the tools and techniques to change them in ways that reduce symptoms and create improved daily functioning. Examining values, life situation, and personal goals are included in this process. 
  5. The emotional strength and resilience that comes from living your best life with a vestibular condition. 

What’s different about a health coach than my other healthcare providers?

  1. Health coaching is what is called “client-centered or client-driven” as opposed to the prescribed intervention in the traditional medical model. This means it’s the client’s problems and goals that determine the specifics of the coaching sessions. Often, the best solutions are discovered through conversation and questions. Coaches do not use pre-determined “cookie cutter” treatment protocols, but design mutually agreed upon personalized strategies, which are then implemented by the client.
  2. A health coach does not make a diagnosis unless they are simultaneously providing a medical service under their regulated license. 
  3. A health coach teaches you to ask questions so that when you visit healthcare specialists you are armed with information to make those office visits more helpful. 
  4. Health coaching does NOT take the place of medical advice. 
  5. It is important to understand when in your journey it’s best to engage the services of a health coach. In the early weeks of your vestibular journey a health coach can provide guidance on finding the right medical specialists. After you have been through medical testing and vestibular therapy, if symptoms are lingering and quality of life is suffering, a health coach is a great resource to help you integrate lifestyle changes that support your overall wellness.  
  6. There are many different types of medical professionals and lay individuals who go into health coaching.
  7. When health coaching is done by a licensed medical provider it offers a much wider potential scope of services than a medical provider who is not trained as a health coach. 
  8. One coach is not necessarily like another. The effort put into finding the right coach will be repaid with the benefit of a highly personalized experience.
  9. Connections between the mind, body, and spirit can be made more intentionally than with most healthcare providers, because of restrictions regulators and third-party payors place on the types of services provided by medical providers.
  10. Health coaching is rarely covered by health insurance. However, HSAs can be used to pay for health coaching. The benefit of not being covered by insurance is that health coaches can provide very specific necessary help and not have to follow only what an insurance company might “approve.” 

When you look for a coach, do not be afraid to ask questions.  Tell them what you want help with, and make sure you have someone who is a good fit for you. The right coach can change your life.