In recent years, life coaching has received special attention as a method to improve healthy lifestyle behaviors. It’s remarkable that coaching has found its way into healthcare sector, too and may provide new ways of engaging the patients and making them accountable for their health.
A healthy lifestyle is important for optimal outcome in patient care and to prevent many of the lifestyle diseases that are dramatically increasing in frequency during these years. Coaching is now being used in a wide range of chronic patients.
Coaching has developed from a wide range of disciplines and is based on broad academic knowledge including cognitive and behavioral psychology, social science, positive psychology, and organizational change and development. Coaching can be described as a method to “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance”, to encourage patients to acknowledge their creativity and to find their own unique solutions by focusing on the present and being goal-oriented.
Health coaching is interpreted as a related practice of health education and health promotion within a coaching context, to enhance the well-being of individuals, and to facilitate the achievement of their health-related goals. Health coaching differs from life coaching by focusing on specific health-related topics and goals, while in life coaching the clients may come to the sessions with whatever issues they would like to address. The aim of life coaching is sustained cognitive, emotional, and behavioural changes that facilitate goal attainment and performance enhancement. The life coach meets the clients with the approach that our attitudes and judgements determine our feelings, decisions, and behaviour. Therefore, the coach will help the client unravel distortions in thinking and enable them to learn alternative ways to approach the world in order to improve decision making and help them achieve their goals.
Life coaching is based on the assumption that the issues most important to the client are self-identified and self-prioritized, and therefore, it is the clients that choose the topic, the action, and the results that they want to achieve. Furthermore, life coaching is defined as focusing on the person’s whole life and by focusing on wellness rather than pathology.
Some studies showed life coaching can be a valuable intervention within a wide range of health-related issues too.
The results from interviews with groups of patients showed that the patients were very satisfied with the coaching intervention and felt encouraged to a) adopt a new view of themselves and their illness, b) try out new methods, and c) work systematically with their goals.
The fact that some patients showed significant improvement may indicate that they can benefit from being met with another approach and a different type of communication. Some of the characteristics associated with resilience in physical Illness are self-efficacy, self-empowerment, acceptance of illness, determination, optimism, hope, and mastery. Patients with low self-efficacy and self-empowerment may actually benefit from life coaching as it is based on methods aimed to improve these characteristics.
In conclusion, findings have indicated that some patients can benefit from being met with the alternative approach and the different type of communication, coaching introduces, than they are used to from health care personnel.