In this blog TPC Health’s Kate Nash talks to Alex, a physiotherapist and specialist falls practitioner, working in the South West. They discuss why Alex decided to train as a health coach, how she found it and how it has impacted both her professional and personal life.

Q1. So just what was it that attracted you to train as a health coach?

During Covid I’d been working to promote increased levels of physical activity as a way to prevent deconditioning, but was becoming disheartened. I felt that nobody seemed to be listening to my advice. That went for both patients and colleagues. I had a realisation: that it wasn’t just about supplying people with information, it was about improved communication skills and encouraging behaviour change.

I did some learning online, particularly around health promotion and behaviour change, which led me to hear about health coaching. The trust where I worked was offering the opportunity to train as a coach, so I signed up. I wasn’t at all sure just what I was signing up for to be honest. I just knew I wanted some behaviour change skills, which I felt were lacking from my tool box as a physiotherapist.

Q2. How did you find the training?

Career changing, and possibly life changing too. The content and skills I acquired helped me gain a far greater awareness both personally and professionally. I’d never seen myself as someone particularly psychologically minded, so thinking about the psychological basis of coaching was most challenging – but it was equally the most interesting and rewarding aspect. The training was delivered in a coaching style, and the trainer embodied this throughout the four days. There was a perfect combination of professionalism, gravitas and humour, coupled with the knowledge the trainer brought with them. The style was also relaxed. It all worked brilliantly.

Q3. What key things did you discover from your training?

Several things. So it’ll be easier if I list them.

1. That I needed to change my own mind-set and the ethos of how I worked. Once I’d realised this, I felt I really wanted to share the message with as many people as possible.

2. That you don’t get behaviour change and personal responsibility until you’ve raised awareness.

3. The approach works well with people who have Long Term Conditions, and who have had multiple interventions in the past. This fits with my own outlook, as I’m someone who likes

to try something different.

4. Health coaching is a mind-set, and it’s very much about seeing the person in front of you as someone with potential, even before they’ve seen that themselves.

5. You need to give people the space and time to think, and ask the right questions. Doing both those things can create amazing results.

Q4. What impact has the training had on your life?

The shift in my own mind-set has been significant. I now try to bring health coaching into all areas of my work, and even my home life, too.

Having seen and experienced the high levels of engagement that a coaching delivery style can facilitate, I have adopted this in all the other training that I deliver. The feedback has been excellent so far. I am also much less directive in my communications; more likely to ask questions that raise awareness than rush into offering solutions straight away. The questions I ask are now more challenging. Because of that I now leave more space for the others to reply.

I’ve even used health coaching on my own mum (a ‘tricky’ patient!) and it worked successfully. I’ve shared this example with our CEO and as a result a colleague and I were asked to present a paper on health coaching to the board.

I’ve been involved in looking at just how health coaching can be used to embed personalised care inthe community trust where I work, as well as suggesting that health coaching could be an enabler at a system-wide level, helping to change the types of conversations that are being had about raising physical activity levels in patients across the country.

Q5. What advice would you give to someone considering training as a health coach?

Do it! Without hesitation! It’s a great investment in both your time and energy. I gained both personal and professional skills. I would have to say that it’s been the most useful course that I have ever done in many years. So why wouldn’t you just do it?

To find out more about just how health coaching could benefit you and your team – click here.