Health Coaching at Georgetown, Part I

Since beginning my Certificate in Health Coaching studies at Georgetown I’ve gotten many questions about it so thought I’d address some of them with a short series of posts. Today I am covering what health coaching is – as defined by Georgetown, why and how I chose this particular program and the core of my studies. In subsequent posts I’ll focus on working with clients followed by the business and future of health coaching. I hope you find these insightful!  HealthCoach Georgetown

Part I – About Georgetown

Without going into all the particulars I made the decision last summer to pursue continuing education in health coaching to compliment my HR background. I’ve been an HR professional for over 17 years and if you’re reading here you know my overall interest in health and wellness. Once I made the decision I began the process of researching programs.

The who’s who of acronyms I found was slightly overwhelming having never heard of half of them. I didn’t want to focus solely on nutrition – which is where a lot of these programs were geared towards – but rather a holistic health approach. My program of choice had to be reputable with some depth to it. Being in higher ed my entire career I was definitely drawn to the bricks and mortar programs so when Georgetown made it’s way into my search I was immediately intrigued.  

The Certificate in Health Coaching program is a fairly new program having started in February 2014. It is located within the School of Continuing Studies and is a collaboration between the Georgetown University Medical Center and the Institute for Transformational Leadership. It’s a 6 month long program totaling 127 total hours.  That said – it is not inexpensive and runs around $7K for tuition plus books/materials and application fee. For me this was an investment in my future – not a random hobby – so something to consider if cost is a factor for you.

The program is cohort based and I was admitted into Cohort #3 with 13 others. What I truly appreciated is we were from all walks of life and backgrounds. Some were personal trainers, nutritionists, yoga instructors, health educators and corporate leaders. GU Health Coaches

As a Health Coach we serve as an ally to our clients to guide them towards achieving positive health choices through behavior change. This could be anything health related, whether a client wants to lose weight, reduce stress, manage a chronic condition or whatever “health” means to them. We do not tell them what to do but rather partner with them in setting goals and provide support in their self discovery. The holistic approach to the program incorporates Georgetown’s core value of cura personalis – or care of the whole person. This is exactly what I was looking for which is why I stayed away from the nutrition focused programs.  Georgetown Cura Personalis

There were 5 core classes each 2-3 full days in length in addition to Practicum studies. We used a combination of in class learning, self-reflection and journaling, mindfulness activities and peer coaching to learn, study, and provide and give on hand feedback. 

  • Psychology of Behavior Change: In this course we explored several behavior models and theories and learned more about the science of behavior change. In practice we used Motivational Interviewing techniques as a strategy for exploring and encouraging change, just to name one. I appreciated this being first and understanding the history and science behind and when to utilize several behavioral models.
  • Health Coaching Fundamentals: In this course we learned just that – the fundamentals. What health coaching is (partnership) and what it isn’t (counseling, therapy). We talked about it’s relevance in today’s world of health care and continued development of skills related to encouraging positive behavior change.
  • Health Coaching Skills I: The first level of skills was so interesting! We worked on developing optimal states of vision and contracting with clients. We focused on current and desired states of health and continued our in class practice in both dyad and triad groups, delving more into health subjects on chronic conditions (ie. smoking cessation), sleep, stress and nutrition.
  • Health Coaching Skills II: The second part of skills built on to the concepts introduced in Skills I. We talked more about other serious chronic illnesses (ie. cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases) and we were given additional tools for working with clients beyond the introductory sessions, how to prepare in between sessions and group coaching. We also covered ethics and when to refer to a licensed practitioner. Of note health coaches are not allowed to provide certain types of information so spending significant time on building strong coaching skills is a critical part of this program I appreciated. One example is in most states only RD’s can provide nutritional information, advice or plans. 
  • Health Coaching Practicum *will cover this in Part II
  • The Business of Health Coaching *will cover this in Part III

The term “health coach” is used interchangeably and inconsistently in a lot of areas so it’s important to read the fine print of any program or job description to ensure it is what you want – whether you are pursuing this as a career path or looking for a coach for yourself. There are standards for certification being developed as we speak to help clarify this definition and really help people know what they’re getting or should ask for in a qualified coach. I’ll talk more about that as well as the Practicum work in future posts! Education Mandela

I am so glad to have found the Certificate in Health Coaching program at Georgetown when I did. I learned so much through this curriculum in addition to making a lifetime of new friends and colleagues. 

Have you ever considered hiring (or used) a health and wellness coach? What would you look for in a health coach? Anything you want me to address in my next posts?

41 thoughts on “Health Coaching at Georgetown, Part I

  1. It sounds like a great program! I love that it focuses on health in a holistic way instead of just highlighting one aspect. I think changes are so much more likely to be sustainable that way. And I like that you mentioned it starts out from what the client’s goals are instead of necessarily telling them what their goals should be. Everyone isn’t focused on losing weight but it seems like that’s what a lot of the industry thinks.
    Chaitali recently posted…Wine and Dine Half Marathon Training – week 9My Profile

    1. so much this!! So many think health is about weight loss and maintenance and through this program I’ve learned that it is definitely so much more and how to coach someone through it. This really was a great program!

    1. yeah, it takes a certain kind of temperament to be a coach. BUT, I will say if you are properly educated and trained, it is less you being responsible for them but the client learning to be responsible for themselves. It really is fascinating.

  2. We are actually being encouraged to attend training for “motivational interviewing”, which is a technique that is supposed to be effective in working with overweight clients. Even though I take care of kids, we see so much obesity and it’s really hard to help the kids unless the parents are on board too. I think health coaching would really be helpful for my job.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Bringing Carefree BackMy Profile

    1. legitimate – YES! once I started researching and saw all these random become a certified health coach programs I knew I needed something more substantive. It’ll be interesting to see how national certification changes things.

  3. How awesome!!

    I am on the pursuit for my Personal Training certification and know that I want to further that with health and nutrition.

    This program sounds awesome-might have to put it on the 5 year plan timeline.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I would be interested in reading about -Psychology of Behavior Change

    1. Having been in HR for a long time, I see this in organizations everywhere! I’d really love to focus on employee wellness and offer health coaching to these places. I’m so glad he’s found use of the services!!

  4. Ahh! Mar this is a fabulous post because I have been toying with this idea. I actually just left HR in higher ed and switched to a corporate setting but am passionate about healthy and holistic lifestyles. Going to read up on Georgetown now!
    Becki S recently posted…I’m not even competitive…My Profile

  5. Their approach is very intriguing and well-rounded. I like that the focus isn’t on nutrition. I did some advanced study in a field I loved (art education in museums), but it was mostly research and very little group work, self-reflection, or hands-on learning. I found it tedious and ultimately it wasn’t worth the time or money invested. I am looking forward to seeing more about your experience. Thanks for this post!
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    1. I liked that too. It seems like everyone wants to become a “health coach” and work on diet and nutrition plans but that’s not really my focus and i think you need much more education than that!

  6. I haven’t hired a health coach before, but I’ve definitely considered going through the certification process myself. I definitely see the value in being educated about coaching more thoroughly…there’s only so much text books and reports can help you when you’re working with real people! For now it doesn’t fully fit in with my vision, but it’s something I’m still considering for later down the road…
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  7. Great post! Ironically, I’m also in HR and have been thinking about wellness coaching. As a Georgetown grad, I’ve also looked at this program, but it seems to presume some prior knowledge/experience in the health/wellness field, as the curriculum seems to focus more on developing coaching skills vs. learning about health/wellness concepts. Am I missing something? Very interested to hear your take!

    1. Thanks for commenting! I didn’t get that at all. No prior knowledge is necessary but I think this is where there is a disconnect in the use of the term health coaching. Not sure what “concepts” you are referring to but this idea of health coaching is not about being an educator but rather guiding clients to changes in behavior. In each of the skills courses we do talk about various health conditions but the idea isn’t to become an expert in all things health and wellness.

  8. wow very interesting! I would actually be very interested in a program like this. I did my Master’s program at Rutgers and it was also cohort based with about 20 people. I also liked that everyone was from such different backgrounds and also that we got to experience the whole program and classes together as a whole. Good luck to you!
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    1. I’d say yes but it is challenging and about balance. Most of my classmates were working full time, others had flexible schedules, another was retired. I was working full time when I started the program. I had to take vacation time from work as the full day sessions were at the end of the week. When it’s time for the practicum and working with clients you’d need to have all evening and weekend appointments most likely.

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