Health and wellbeing coaches and other practitioners using a coaching approach, play a transformational role in the personalisation of care for patients and provide timely interventions designed to support people to be in a better position to self-manage their conditions and adopt healthy behaviours and habits.

To ensure health coaches can deliver the best service possible to patients, they require continuous development, support, and the opportunity to safely discuss their role and any barriers they may be facing – which is why regular health coaching supervision is so important.

The importance of regular health coaching supervision
Across the health and care system, supervision is provided in many different formats from clinical supervision to line management supervision, and each role will differ with its individual requirements. For Health and Wellbeing Coaches and practitioners using a coaching approach access to a model of health coaching supervision is required to ensure they receive the support and encouragement needed to practice safely and effectively.

Unfortunately, coaching supervision is often hard to access. NHS England carried out a survey of health and wellbeing coaches working in primary care in autumn 2021 to understand their experiences. In the survey, a lack of adequate supervision was cited as one of the main reasons for health and wellbeing coaches leaving their role.

NHS England’s Health and Wellbeing Coach workforce development framework recommends 1 to 2 hours per month of individual health coaching supervision and group supervision as a supplementary development opportunity. Supervision should be provided by a person who is both experienced in health coaching, and trained as a coaching supervisor.

The core functions of health coaching supervision
Here at TPC Health we feel supervision should be equally: Formative, Normative and Restorative; and ensures that individuals give as much thought to their own health and wellbeing as they do to their professional development.

Let’s look at each dimension of supervision and how it gives health coaching practitioners an opportunity for support, reflection, and learning.

The Normative dimension
This element of supervision has a focus on monitoring and evaluating professional standards and ensuring there is quality control in place. Coaching supervisors can use the normative model to make sure that their practitioners are working in an ethical way and within the boundaries of health coaching. Supervisors should use the normative function to initiate conversations regarding ethical issues, and encourage the coach to explore these areas of their practice.

Supervision can also be used to ensure the provision of a health coaching service is consistent (normative) across an organisation and that the same quality of outcomes is sought. It is recommended that Health Coaching Supervisors are confident and well trained in this area to ensure they are comfortable with exploring potentially problematic working behaviours and supporting the implementation of new, improved methods.

The Formative dimension
This area of supervision focuses on learning and enables health coaches to identify opportunities for further development, developing additional skills and sharing good practices. The formative aspect of supervision emphasises opportunities to strengthen the resources available to the individual to enable them to grow and make a greater impact within their coaching. Another aim of the formative function is to explore how the coach is working with their clients and what approaches/interventions they are using.

However, this is not just about the coaching tools and models and what the coach is ‘doing’, it is also about how the coach is ‘being’. The formative side of supervision may explore the impact a particular patient has on the coach, how they may react, and how they can develop the skills and self-awareness to improve the quality of their interactions with their patients.

The Restorative dimension
The restorative function of supervision is about creating a psychologically safe space for practitioners and providing the opportunity for reflection and focusing on personal wellbeing – allowing the practitioner to let go of feelings and emotions that may have built up, and that they often carry following their coaching sessions.

The health profession is one that can be highly emotionally immersive, and it is common to be impacted by the presence of string emotions. Restorative supervision gives coaches the space, time and tools to process these feelings, recognise that they are normal reactions, and get back on their feet and reconnect with the role they are passionate about.

Supervision supports the workforce.
In all health and care roles, practitioners witness challenging and emotionally draining situations daily, with patients suffering from both physical and mental health crises. Carrying out a role that brings you into constant contact with these situations can have a huge impact both in the short and long term. However, with the right support in place practitioners can develop the strategies to manage these situations and continue to thrive within their roles.

Health coaching supervision works best when carried out regularly and from our own data and results, we would recommend this to be at monthly intervals as minimum. We also advise that coaches should have access to emergency supervision within 24 hours of experiencing a challenging or upsetting case and immediate access to other referral support services.

Invest in health coaching supervision.

We know in the current economic climate health and care organisations are having their resources stretched to the maximum, however investing in the current workforce is a financially sound strategy and can help to prevent losing staff to stress and burnout.

There are various ways to approach and implement supervision. You could look to invest in the training of in-house health coaches to become supervisors of other health coaches or you could procure the services of external qualified supervisors who will run sessions on your behalf.

If you would like to discuss supervision further, or you have any questions relating to this article, please feel free to contact us.