Wellness Solutions to facilitate your journey to sustainable, attainable health and wholeness
Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB FRIPH MISMA
Health coaching will help you effectively manage physical, mental-emotional and spiritual dis-ease, health risks (e.g. high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar, or early changes identified during breast thermography) and high stress levels (distress), as a truly preventative intervention, thereby providing sustainable and lasting integrative health solutions, ultimately leading to a healthier and happier workplace, workforce, communities and individuals.
Definition: Health coaching or mentoring is the practice of health education and health promotion within a coaching context, to enhance the wellbeing of individuals and groups, by facilitating the achievement of health and wellbeing related goals.
Health coaching or mentoring has become a very effective tool in the workplace and for individuals, to help improve performance and productivity, manage stress and optimise wellbeing, achieve work related, as well as personal goals, while being on the ever human quest for meaning and purpose in life.
Coaching is about unlocking people’s dormant or hidden potential, to maximise their own performance, while helping them to learn (rather than being taught). It is the art of facilitation and ongoing support to improve performance, as well as the development of skills through a form of tutoring, mentoring or instruction. The aim of health coaching or mentoring, is to enhance wellbeing and full potential development in personal and work life.
Health coaching or mentoring is goal and solution focused.
The health coach or mentor, takes an active and directive role, helping the client to achieve their goals by facilitating the learning process. The health coach will help to educate the client on specific health and wellbeing related topics, including all the levels or aspects of human wellbeing (i.e. mind, body, emotions, spirit).
The Institute of Health Promotion and Education (an established health related professional body), provides another practical definition:
The practice of health promotion and health education may be described as the organisation and execution of the influences affecting the environment, as well as individual knowledge, attitudes and behaviour, in matters concerning health, with a view to enabling communities, groups and individuals to maintain and promote personal and community health and wellbeing, together with a proper acceptance and use of the health and medical services available. (IHPE 2002)
Although the focus of health coaching / mentoring is on finding sustainable
workplace wellness interventions for the group and the individual, it is often also aimed at
the proactive enhancement of community health and wellbeing, while assisting employer
groups in meeting social responsibility targets.
Stress management coaching is one well known example of health coaching or mentoring. The International Stress Management Association (UK), has recognised the practice of this form of coaching. The Association for Coaching (2003), includes stress management and health coaching on its website as ‘Specialty Coaching’. Thus the term ‘health coaching’ is entering into public awareness.
Behavioural counseling, which has been used to educate clients with heart disease, is another very effective example of health coaching, or mentoring. The coaching is active and directive in nature, and takes an educational approach which could be more accurately described as instructional coaching. Physical tools and techniques are provided, but health coaching/mentoring also includes spiritual and mental-emotional process work to determine, correct and re-program, underlying mental-emotional blocks and issues that ultimately, remain the root cause of all physical dis-ease.
Health coaching/mentoring facilitates the unlocking and releasing of dormant inner potential to maximise health, happiness and performance. Health coaching/mentoring is a powerful alliance or co-operative agreement, between coach/mentor and client, to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, ultimate fulfillment, finding meaning and purpose in life, experiencing life in deep harmony, peace and joy. It is an ongoing relationship that focuses on clients taking action toward the realisation of their own visions, goals or desires. Health coaches or mentors, utilise a process of inquiry and personal discovery to build the level of awareness and responsibility, while providing structure, support and feedback. The coaching process helps clients both define and achieve professional and personal goals faster and with more ease than would be possible otherwise.
While increasingly recognised as a powerful modality in the workplace, personal and family life, to improve sports performance, executive health and self actualisation, the use of coaching in a health context remains relatively new and mostly unexplored territory.
The alarming pressure the burden of disease exerts on both individuals and our healthcare system, combined with an ever increasing awareness among health conscious consumers, accentuate the urgent need for a new paradigm that incorporates a whole being, integral approach which includes the physical body, mind, emotions, soul/spirit, social, environment and occupational aspects of human existence.
Health coaches or mentors use a limitless variety of techniques available from the incredible progress in the field of transpersonal psychology, human behaviour, process work, motivational theories and sustainable change, combined with relevant knowledge of, and experience in, integrative medicine.
Will you benefit from health coaching or mentoring?
Yes, definitely, if you are serious about taking responsibility for your own health, happiness and wellbeing! Also, if you want to achieve a healthy balance between the needs of your body, mind, spirit and environment, and would like a partner to support and motivate you on your journey into healing. This requires your commitment and willingness to explore, question and learn. You would be challenged to make changes in thinking, being and behaviour.
If you experience any of the following, a Health Coach/Mentor, will be of benefit to you:
- You’re feeling confused because of the innumerable and complex health options and opinions available today
- You’re struggling to find the motivation, or constantly procrastinate, taking action to live a healthier life
- You’d appreciate some support in achieving a specific goal, e.g. weight loss, a healthier body, healthier eating, stress management, dealing with mental-emotional blocks, finding a balanced and enjoyable exercise routine, or to help your peers to become healthier if you can learn how to teach and support them.
- You are dealing with an increased health risk (identified during a health screening) or existing chronic illness or serious health challenge, and need an objective and supportive health coach or mentor to consider all the options available to you
- You’re in a constant battle with (or totally disconnected from) your body and its needs, and you’re seeking to develop a healthier relationship with yourself
- You’re interested in exploring the different levels of consciousness, you value personal growth and recognise that body awareness is a fundamental aspect of wholeness, self awareness and self development.
What to expect when you consult a health coach/mentor
- Health coaching is a conversation that can take place on a personal, individual consultation basis, in a group setting using process workshops, courses, peer education, or retreats (powerful experiential 2 day workshops with ongoing support afterwards), and via e-mail consultation (e-courses).
- Regular coaching sessions are the ideal. Frequency, duration and approach are determined by the client’s needs, requirements and objectives.
- The conversation begins with a definition of what the client would like to achieve, then continues with an assessment and exploration of the current versus optimum reality, using dialogue and process work to change cognitive or attitudinal blocks to total wellbeing. This includes medical and other assessments.
- Finally, client and coach will formulate the steps required to achieve the optimum reality.
- Successful implementation of these steps often necessitates an ongoing exploration of the client’s values, beliefs and personal myths*, in order to create freedom from health inhibiting thinking.
- The success of health coaching is usually measured by the degree of sustainable change in thinking or behaviour as experienced by the client, as well as by an improvement in physical health risk parameters.
Recommended qualifications of a health coach/mentor
A health coach or mentor, should ideally have a medical qualification and extensive experience in integrative medicine, teaching, facilitation, complementary health care and counseling, as well as further qualifications or membership of relevant public institutions.
Health coaching / mentoring offers an exciting, innovative and sustainable opportunity for the discerning individual and/or group, to work with a pioneering and experienced health practitioner for attainable and sustainable optimal health and wellness goals. As a new paradigm life enhancement skill, it suggests that humanity has evolved to a place where we are ready to reclaim responsibility for our own health and wellbeing, while acknowledging the power and wisdom of the consciousness, or inherent being of authentic truth, that breathes life into our physical bodies.
As a qualified and experienced health coach/mentor, I feel inspired and passionate about the creativity and the freedom this approach offers for conscious healing and wholeness. Being on my own journey into healing though, I understand how difficult it is to change old mind patterns, buried for many years, deep inside the unconscious mind. From my personal experience, I know it is possible to change personal myths* that harm health and happiness, into ones that enhance health and wellbeing. My personal coaching philosophy: ‘We teach best what we most have to learn!’ This is emphasised in the following appeal to teach and guide, not to wait until I’m perfect, or an all knowing expert! The empathy and compassion increase where personal experience helps me understand the journey into healing as a deepening, spiraling process. The process circles in and out in an ongoing learning, ever maturing process of self actualisation.
On this day of your life, dear friend, we want you to know!
On this day of your life, know…
that the fastest way to learn something is to teach it.
Do not wait, therefore, until you ‘know all about it’ or have ‘mastered’
what you wish to share before you begin to share it.
The world needs more of what you wish to learn more of.
And do not worry so much about what you don’t know.
Worry about what you don’t do!
Because you are robbing us while you are waiting to become an ‘expert’
– Author unknown
*Myth: long held belief, combined with strong feeling, attitude and intention. If these are unconscious within the personal, group, or collective psyche, they will drive and control, for better or worse! Once health and wellbeing harming myths are made fully conscious though, and with deliberate intent and re-programming (using symbolism, metaphor, dreamwork, strong positive feelings, or process work) of the unconscious mind, and allowing the superconscious mind to assist, you can and will, form new networks, new elsewheres of thought, feelings and beliefs. A new personal myth! This process will set you free to live your life with passion, purpose and meaning; in joy, peace and inner happiness. This is what ‘free will’ means, not fooling yourself by thinking that present and future choices, decisions and behaviour, but based on old, stuck emotions, surrounding and charging old, deeply unconscious memories, can ever be called free will!
Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB (Pretoria) FRIPH (London) MISMA (UK) is a medical doctor, health coach/mentor, internationally published author and specialist corporate health and wellness service provider. She has extensive experience in integrative medicine, stress management, workplace wellness and health promotion through well researched health solutions, wellness products and sustainable interventions, incorporating the power of thoughts and feelings (mental-emotional aspects) and their effect on physical health and wellbeing. Dr Arien has been elected Fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Health (FRIPH) in the UK for the work she does in South Africa to promote public health and wellness through education, training and communication. She is also a Member of the International Stress Management Association, UK branch. Dr Arien writes books and training manuals, develops programs and presents regular wellness/peer educator training, stress management and workplace wellness talks, workshops, courses and seminars. She developed and facilitates three accredited Short Courses on Peer Educator Training, Stress Management and Wellness in the Workplace, through the University of Pretoria. Courses are offered in-house for companies, as well as at UP’s Postgraduate & Continued Education Training Centre.