I recently saw the headline “Model/influencer Tegan Martin has been accused of ‘exaggerating’ her health qualifications.” (https://www.mamamia.com.au/tegan-martin-health-coaching/) and Belle Gibson, a ‘wellness’ blogger has been accused of fraud and deception – “Wellness blogger Belle Gibson faces possible jail time” (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/wellness-blogger-belle-gibson-faces-possible-jail-time).
These are just two of the many examples of people who spruke their wellness services with little or no experience or qualifications, providing health and wellness advice based on what they have learnt from their own journey and not from evidence-based studies and qualifications.
This raises many issues;
1. Anybody can call themselves a “Health Coach” – Australia has no governing body for who can and can’t promote themselves as a Health Coach. This means that we have ended up with health coaches who have no qualifications in health and/or no experience working in the health field. Many also do not have any coaching qualifications which means that they do not ‘coach’ clients through their health journey. Instead they operate as teachers or advice givers (see “Is your coach really a coach?”
2. Many “Health Coaches” believe that their “experience” qualifies them to work as a health coach. There are many examples of people who have lost weight and now promote themselves as Weight Loss Health Coaches. These people have no health qualifications and rely solely on their own experience (and Dr. Google) to help others also lose weight. I also know of others who “got healthy eating only raw food” and now considers themselves experts on promoting raw food diets to cure chronic illness, lose weight and promote better sleep.
3. There are many so-call Health Coaching” qualifications – some are online 16-hour courses which promise to qualify you as a Health Coach who can then go and make a career, coaching others with their health issues. A very well-known (and expensive) online Health Coaching course does not require any previous health experience or qualifications and yet promotes their course with the promise that graduates can work in hospitals, GP clinics and health clinics!
4. There are also issues of Health Coaches working outside of their scope of practice. I recently talked with a Naturopath who has decided to focus on “… working with people who have mental health issues”. She has no experience or qualifications in mental health but has decided that she likes that area and is already telling people that she is a “Mental Health Coach”!
What should people do if they want to work with a Health Coach?
1. Do the research – what qualifications and experience do they have? Are they working within their scope of practice? Do they have insurance?
2. Google them, look for reviews, feedback and testimonials. Don’t rely on their website, Facebook or Instagram pages – instead look at what other people are saying.
3. Review their qualifications (if any). Note that people can also ‘buy’ degrees online so check out the Institution. Be aware that there is a huge difference between qualifications e.g. a ‘dietician’ who has a University Degree and a ‘nutritionist’ who may have a Certificate or a Registered Nurse who has a Degree and a Nursing Assistant who has a Certificate III.
4. If the Health Coach states that they are a qualified health practitioner that requires registration in order to practice, you may be able to check this. In Australia most Health Professionals are required to maintain their registration in their area of practice and anyone can check this online with APHRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency)
I know there are many people out there, practicing as Health Coaches who do not have any formal qualifications in either coaching or health. If that is the case, then they need to be very clear about that in their advertising and promotional materials. Don’t get caught up in the hype of those who build their empire on lies and falsehood. And remember, “…if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!”
Kay Ross is a Health Coach, nurse and accredited coach, counsellor and educator who works with women who realise that they have neglected their health and would like support and guidance to address their health needs. Kay specialises in the prevention of chronic disease especially those related to diabetes, heart disease, mental health and stress. Click here for more information on Health Coaching with Kay