Health Coaching vs. Consulting vs. Advising: What’s the Difference?

The coaching industry has become the Wild West of the personal and professional development sector…

Until the International Coaching Federation (ICF), there was very little industry oversight, and the definition of health coaching became blurred with the concept of consulting – which is NOT the same thing.

As health and wellness coaching gains traction worldwide, it’s important to understand the differences between the consulting, advising, and coaching industries – especially if you plan on becoming an ICF certified health and wellness coach.

Health coaching isn’t about telling a client what to do.

This is one of the most important rules of health coaching!

It is NOT your job, as a health and wellness coach, to solve your clients’ problems for them. You’re there to help them discover the answers for themselves using techniques that involve asking the right questions, and helping a client interpret those answers.

When you coach someone, it’s about drawing the results out of them, and helping them to better self-manage their problems. Health coaching focuses on a specific niche and a specific problem set, and this can direct the nature of the sessions.

Your coaching skill set prepares you for active listening and to respond in a way that encourages your client to reach their own conclusions.

Consulting provides hands-on intervention.

Consulting is coming from an entirely different place than health coaching. A health consultant will have a different set of skills that allow them to create and implement action plans. It’s not about leading the client to develop their own conclusions. Instead, a health consultant identifies the problems, points them out to the client, and provides a service that solves them.

But, there’s a downside…

It’s difficult to identify an exact problem correctly every time, and this can raise the risk of making a bad call – especially when it comes to health.

Health consultants will also need to have the knowledge to offer definitive services to their clients, and this can mean a different educational path.

Both coaching and consulting involve asking the right questions. But coaching helps the client to determine their own conclusions, and consulting is about offering services to solve identified problems.

Health and wellness coaches aren’t there to tell people what they should do, and this is a vastly different approach than consulting.

Advising is about making recommendations.

Many of our certifications here at The Health Sciences Academy empower students to become great advisors – but this is still a very different path from health coaching.

For example, a nutritional advisor listens to their clients, takes inventory of information, and then makes actionable, personalised recommendations to improve their clients’ lives.

Keep in mind, health advising, health coaching, and health consulting do not involve making any type of diagnosis, and all will need to refer clients with serious mental or physical health problems to a qualified medical doctor.

The biggest difference between a nutritional advisor and a health coach is the word “advice”.

A health coach is not giving advice or instructing their clients on specific actions, whereas a nutritional advisor provides actionable recommendations.

One leads a horse to water and tells him to drink, and the other leads a horse to water and helps him realise he’s thirsty.

When is health coaching appropriate?

Choosing the appropriate professional is really up to the client’s needs. During your initial interview with a potential health coaching client, it’s important to ask them what they hope to get out of the interaction.

If they want a ready-made solution, or someone to solve a problem for them – then health coaching may not be the right fit.

However, if they want to improve their health by changing their behaviours, then health coaching is exactly what may help solve their problem!

It’s all about knowing what you can offer, what goals you can help your clients meet, and where to draw the line on your scope of practice (all of which you can learn with the THSA Professional Health Coaching Program).

Can you combine coaching and advising?

It depends! If you have the credentials and certifications as a nutrition professional or are working towards them, this a resounding YES. How so?

Let’s say that, during health coaching sessions, you’re considering applying an advisory specialisation, such as Advanced Gut Restoration Nutritional Advisor or another field of specialty…

In that case, we’ll help you practice the coach/advisor amalgamation in real client scenarios during our interactive classes inside the THSA Professional Health Coaching Program. It’s a delicate balance and, to comply with ICF coaching standards, this requires the right use of transitional language!

But with adequate training and coaching feedback, you’ll feel confident in both your ability to coach, whilst providing personalised nutritional advice. This assumes, of course, you’ve been certified in your field of specialty!

Choosing the career path that works best for you.

Becoming an advanced health and wellness coach takes dedication and a credible education backed by the ICF.

Ready to learn more? Click here to take our Fundamentals of Health Coaching Course (valued at $250) for free!

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