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ISSA | Top Skills Needed to Be a Health Coach

Top Skills Needed to Be a Health Coach

Reading Time: 5 minutes


DATE: 2024-01-10

Health coaching is a growing career. Along with wellness coaching, nutrition coaching, and related careers, trained, skilled professionals are in demand. If health and wellness are your passion, consider what you need to turn it into a dream career. 

In an unregulated industry in which anyone can legally call themselves a health coach, standing out is essential. You need certain skills not just to be a health coach but to be a successful, effective health coach. If you don’t already have these health coach skills, a good certification program can help you develop them. 

About Health Coaching

Health and wellness coaching are relatively new careers. They are thriving in an overall health industry that continues to grow with a population that increasingly understands the importance of being fit and healthy. 

There is a lot of overlap between health, wellness, and nutrition coaches. The latter focuses primarily on diet and food choices, and how they impact health. Health and wellness coaches are largely the same, helping people achieve specific health goals related to overall wellness. These are some of the typical duties of a health coach

  • Meeting with clients to assess their current health

  • Helping clients develop specific health-related goals, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or managing stress

  • Teaching clients about health and what affects their health

  • Promoting behavior changes and positive lifestyle changes

  • Helping clients develop specific programs and strategies for meeting their goals

  • Assessing a client’s progress in meeting their goals

  • Adapting strategies to improve a client’s progress

Already a personal trainer? Learn how to maximize your business by combining personal training and health coaching.

What Are the Essential Skills Needed to Be a Health Coach? 

A passion for health and wellness is an ideal starting point for becoming a health coach. But to be effective for your clients and to make a successful career of health coaching, you need much more. 

These are the skills successful health coaches use to help clients meet their goals and have on their resume to land a job or a new client:

  1. Health and nutrition knowledge

  2. Knowledge of human behavior

  3. Good communication

  4. Customer service

  5. Holistic approach

  6. Enthusiasm

  7. Business and marketing

Health and Nutrition Knowledge 

This is a basic and must-have skill for coaching. You have to know what you’re talking about if you will be helping people evaluate and change their health. You should be passionate about health and wellness but also deeply knowledgeable about all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. 

Knowledge of Human Behaviors

Also essential for coaching is psychology, or behavioral science. You do not need to be a psychologist or trained therapist, but you should understand the basics. This is how you will help people make positive changes related to their health. 

A basic level of knowledge about behavior change will make you more effective at motivating clients. It will help you understand why people make the choices they do, and how to make effective and lasting positive changes.

Learn more: Powerful Health Coach Motivational Interviewing Questions 

Communication Skills for a Health and Wellness Coach

Health coaches are also educators. They teach clients about healthy lifestyle habits and behavior change. They must be able to communicate ideas effectively and clearly. You can be extremely knowledgeable, but if you can’t make yourself understood, it doesn’t matter. 

In addition to teaching clients, you must be able to communicate professionally. This means contacting clients regularly, sending professional emails or making calls, following up, and setting clear expectations that clients understand. 

Customer Service

This isn’t what most people think about when considering a career in health coaching, but it is a service industry. Any professional offering services to clients must be good at customer service. This covers a range of skills: 

  • The ability to listen to clients and really hear what they’re saying

  • Problem-solving and resourcefulness when things fail to go to plan

  • Flexibility and a willingness to change up strategies if they aren’t working

  • Empathy for clients, the ability to imagine being in their shoes so you can provide the services they need in a way that they will respond to

  • Patience in the face of frustrated or upset clients

Holistic Outlook When Coaching

A holistic health approach means looking at the big picture. Health issues are complicated and involve many aspects of a person’s life. Even health challenges that seem straightforward are connected to many others. 

For instance, if a client wants to moderate their drinking, you must consider what causes them to drink in the first place. There are emotional and mental health factors involved. Alcohol impacts diet and nutrition. It can also cause or exacerbate chronic illnesses. To help a client reach their goals, you must consider the whole person, not a single health problem in isolation. 

Enthusiasm and a Positive Attitude

You are already passionate about health, fitness, and nutrition, but can you get excited about someone else’s health journey? This is an essential element of any type of coaching. You must be invested in the outcomes for your clients. 

Your client will see this in your attitude and energy levels. You should be enthusiastic about what you do and working with each client. You should be able to maintain a positive attitude, even and especially when your client is feeling down. Maybe their progress has stalled or they’re struggling to make a lifestyle change. As the coach, you need to model positive energy and excitement for the process. 

Business and Marketing Skills for a Coaching Business

Often overlooked in the enthusiasm to get started helping people, a good health coach needs solid business skills. If you are striking out on your own, you’ll need to manage every aspect of a small business: bookkeeping and accounting, scheduling, communicating with clients, billing and payments, marketing, and more. 

Even as an employee, marketing skills are important. You need to market yourself to potential clients and keep the ones you have. This means using professional networking, social media, events, and advertising to land clients. 

Some of the important skills associated with health coaching are inherent in who you are as a person. Most of them can be learned, developed, and improved. So, if you are not naturally a good communicator, that doesn’t mean you cannot be a good health coach. 

What you should be able to do is recognize areas of weakness and take steps to improve them. This is what will make you successful in any career you choose. 

Want to learn more about starting a coaching business? Check out this articles from the Health Coach Institute: 7 Steps to Start a Health and Life Coach Business Plan

How to Become a Health Coach

Health coaching is an unregulated industry. Legally, you do not need to do anything to call yourself a health coach. Of course, to be serious about the profession and actually land a job or clients, you do need some qualifications. 

Start with a health coach certification program. Most are offered online and give you the flexibility to study at your own pace and even as you hold down your day job. 

Once you’re certified, it’s a good idea to get some experience, maybe offering free or discounted sessions for friends and family. Consider finding a coach to act as a mentor and start networking in the industry. Build a strong health coach resume and then decide if you want to find a job as an employee or strike out on your own as an independent coach with a private practice. 

Do you have what it takes to be a successful health coach? Get started with the ISSA’s Certified Health Coach program. Turn what you’re passionate about into your new career. It’s all online and is more affordable than you think.  

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ISSA | Certified Health Coach

ISSA's Health Coach certification is for personal trainers and other health professionals who want to help clients overcome physical and mental health barriers to achieve their optimal wellness.

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