Health Coach or Life Coach: Which One Do You Need?


Coaching is a great way to help break barriers.: Image courtesy of: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus collection/Getty Images

If you feel like you’re close to reaching the next level in your personal life or career — but don’t know how to get there — you probably could benefit from some coaching.

Thanks to the web, you’re no longer limited to a college professor, a former boss or even the coach across town. You can partner with a coach anywhere in the world to help you create a sustainable plan to move forward. Narrowing down your choices may actually be the hardest part.

Finding the best fit starts with understanding what kind of coach you need. That often comes down to a decision between a health coach or a life coach. To help you start down the right coaching path, consider these three questions:

Is your issue skill-specific?

A specific problem, like figuring out how to break into a new industry or train for a half-marathon with a heavy travel schedule, makes it easier to know which coach to choose. Your life coach can help you with specific job or relationship skills, while a health coach is a better choice for exercise and nutrition plans.

Are you interested in changing your behaviors or mindset?

If you’ve got the skills but feel like your behaviors are the issue, you may want to seek out a health coach. Karen Katzenbach of Momentum Fitness views her role as a health coach as “creating healthy change that moves a client forward toward a happy, productive and connected life.” That means working on “goals, values and mindset,” to change your habits, she says.

Even if your goal is something unrelated to the gym, you may find your current state of wellness is the roadblock. “Physical confidence is a great entry to psychological and emotional confidence and these changes all support one another,” Katzenbach says. That confidence can translate into the push you need to take action.

However, if you believe your struggle is more about your current mindset, you might find a life coach the more appropriate choice. Madison Hedlund, life coach and speaker, describes her job as “being a mirror, listening, questioning and challenging clients to see the world in a new way.”

Working with a life coach may be the best way to re-write your mental scripts and forge a path ahead. “Without being questioned, our brains typically believe the stories handed to us from our history, so we rarely question our perceived limitations, our insecurities, or our beliefs,” she says.

What if you’re not sure about the source of your problems?

If you know that something isn’t quite right but aren’t sure what, start with a life coach. A few visits might help you understand the source of your malaise. Then they can point you in the right direction if it is out of their scope of practice. “I have referred people to therapists, grief support groups and other wellness practitioners when I feel they need more support than I alone can give,” Hedlund says.

Along these lines, most life and health coaches will offer a free consultation. A great coach wants to find the best path for you, even if that means sending you to a different coach. If your goals or sticking points don’t match their skill set, you can ask for a referral to one who does.

Before committing to any coach, check their certifications (ideally from an association accredited by the Commission for Certifying Agencies), check for online reviews and/or membership on professional services sites like Thumbtack, and ask for testimonials.

Once you’ve done all your homework, you can start building a plan together to push forward to the next level.

About the Author

Pamela HernandezPamela Hernandez is a certified personal trainer and health coach who specializes in empowering women with fitness. When she's not in the gym you can find her writing, drinking tea and planning her next trip.