Analysis of a field of service, like wellness coaching, is always tricky. How do we know how well it is being received, how much it is growing, etc.? The best test is the market demand, and we are definitely seeing that with The Wellness Coach Training Institute (http://realbalance.com/) as we grow. Another way to find the pulse to put one’s finger on is to attend relevant national conferences and see the interest there. July 13-19 we attended and presented at The National Wellness Conference (http://www.nationalwellness.org/index.php?id_tier=90) in Wisconsin and found that both wellness in general and wellness coaching are being enthusiastically received.
Conference attendance was up this year over the last two years, an indicator of improved conference planning and marketing, and an improving economy. The extreme need for savings in healthcare costs has combined with solid, demonstrated ROI for comprehensive wellness programs to drive a vigorous desire to develop and support wellness programs. One of the students in my pre-conference wellness coach certificate program had a concrete example of this. While her healthcare company had decided to lay off twenty-five of it’s mid-level managers across the company, it hired three new employees for the wellness program!
Four of us from The National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches (http://ncchwc.org/) presented a panel on our progress to date. My share of the presentation was to show the quick evolution of coaching and wellness coaching. As I prepared two things really struck me: 1) How astonishingly fast the whole coaching field has developed, and 2) how both the wellness field as a whole and wellness coaching in particular both bloomed and accelerated at about the same time.
Coaching is young stuff!
The call on when the life-coaching field emerged is a bit fuzzy, but most people agree that it was Thomas Leonard who started putting it on the map in 1988. That’s only twenty-four years ago! Check out this rapid development:
1988 – Leonard comes on the scene, taking business consulting into the realm of coaching.
1992 – Leonard founds Coach U (Coach University), and Laura Whitworth and Karen & Henry Kimsey-House found CTI (Coaches Training Institute).
1995 – The International Coaching Federation is founded.
1998- “Therapist U” (became ILCT) founded by Pat Williams as many switch from psychology professions to coaching.
Mid to late 1990’s Life Coach Training Accelerates
Late 1990’s – First articles on wellness coaching appear in Wellness Management, and first presentations are made at The National Wellness Conference by myself.
Early 2000’s Wellness Coach Training Programs emerge, Real Balance Global Wellness Services, Wellcoaches, etc.
2005 – Wellness Coaching seen as providing a “Paradigm Shift” in the entire wellness field. Wellness Programs get traction through great ROI
2006 Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change is written, published in 2007.
2009 Coaching Psychology Manual is published.
The late 2000’s see rapid adoption of wellness coaching methods by the medical world, disease management companies, EAP’s, and others.
2011 – Wellness Coaching mentioned over 30 times in Affordable Care Act.
The Whole Wellness Movement
Since my first attendance at The National Wellness Conference in 1979 I’ve seen the evolution of this field go from a criticized “fad” to an ROI juggernaut. For years as wellness programs were taken on by innovative organizations they were often on shaky ground. When the budget ax fell it were these programs that were often among the first to go. The people responsible for the purse strings were rightfully looking for evidence that they worked and the new field was scrambling to provide just that.
I’ll never forget being at an Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference (http://healthpromotionconference.com/) in the early 2000’s and hearing Kenneth Pelletier address this issue with a startling proclamation. Essentially his words were “If people are criticizing your wellness efforts by saying that the literature doesn’t support wellness, then say to them – Well you don’t know the literature! ”. Larry Chapman and others have been champions of showing what Larry likes to call “Proof Positive ROI” (http://www.welcoa.org/freeresources/pdf/chapman_incent_incentives.pdf) that comprehensive wellness programs have been consistently showing 3-10 dollars saved for every dollar spent on wellness.
It took until around 2005-2006 for this all to sink in. At this same time, wellness coaching took off! The demand for trained wellness coaches accelerated. Disease management programs either developed or sought more coach training for their specialists. Employee wellness programs sought to have their health educators and nurses trained in these behavioral change methodologies. Wellness coaching created a paradigm shift within the field of wellness itself.
“I think we are on the verge of a major paradigm shift in promoting health and wellness driven by coaching. Coaching provides a positive connection–a supportive relationship–between the coach and the person who wants to make a change. That connection empowers the person being coached to recognize and draw on his or her own innate ability and resources to make lasting changes for better health and well-being.”
2005 Anne Helmke, Member Services Team Leader, National Wellness Institute
Today leaders in the health promotion field like Chapman and Dee Edington (http://hmrc.umich.edu/content.aspx?pageid=42&fname=zerotrends.txt) say that wellness coaching is an essential part of any comprehensive wellness program that wants to be effective. The enthusiasm for the coaching breakouts offered at The National Wellness Conference this year, and over the last several years, has been very exciting to see. The “Coaching Academy” was extremely well attended throughout the conference. My breakouts were packed to standing room only as wellness folks are hungry for more good learning about wellness coaching.
Together We Thrive!
Wellness coaching is a wonderful combination of the best of what we know from the life-coaching field and the field of health promotion and wellness. Wellness coaching has become one of the legs that support the table of wellness programs. Seeing the success of both fields has been extremely gratifying for me personally. Knowing that we truly are impacting the health of the world makes me proud.