Published: August 21, 2020
A strong environment of collaboration between health coaches and practitioners can help clients feel supported and encouraged to reach their goals as they move forward on their health journey.
It’s no secret that time is a scarce resource, and all over the world, healthcare practitioners face a lot of time constraints throughout their days. This presents challenges in where they can focus their attention, especially when it comes to food and lifestyle changes, which often require a more hands-on approach to sustain. Now, many doctors are partnering with health coaches to extend their reach and provide additional sources of ongoing support.
Four Functional Medicine doctors from the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Australia shared their insights with us on how having a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC) on their team has helped improve their practice. Their experiences offer valuable frameworks for how practitioners and health coaches can work together internationally to provide exceptional levels of care.
Health coaches can help save the limited time that doctors have available, freeing them up to focus on higher-level issues. The doctor can provide crucial medical insight, clarity, and treatment plans, and the coach can give hands-on support to help the individual implement changes into their everyday life.
This creates an opportunity for powerful collaboration towards the ultimate goal of helping support the client’s overall health as effectively as possible. Clients can take comfort in knowing they have not just one provider but a team to support them on their health journey.
Max Tomlinson, ND D.BM GNC owns and operates the Fulham Medical Centre in London, England where he uses the Bredesen protocol for patients with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. “It’s the top-level stuff that I’m doing that takes most of my bandwidth,” Tomlinson said, “and yet I feel that the dietary interventions, and how you implement the diet and the supplements, is the key to delivering the outcome we’re looking for.”
This is where the health coach can be extremely helpful, not only in supporting these changes but also freeing up the doctor to focus their attention on other areas. Dr. Tomlinson explained, “If you’re focusing so much on the dietary aspect, you don’t have the time to do that top-level stuff. So it frees up a remarkable amount of time, and it takes away the stress.”
Especially in the field of Functional Medicine, this collaboration between health coach and practitioner is extremely helpful in supporting both practitioner and patient. Dr. Abdullah Cerit is an Internal Medicine doctor trained in Functional Medicine and based in Turkey, where he works with a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC). Dr. Cerit said, “One doctor couldn’t manage all of it—coaching, dietician skills, and at the same time, Functional Medicine coaching skills. So a Functional Medicine doctor should work with a coach—a Functional Medicine coach.”
Not only does this help the doctor, but it can also help better support the patient. Jabe Brown, BHSc (Nat), MSc (Nut & Fx-Med), BComm, AFMCP owns Melbourne Functional Medicine. “I got to the point with my clinic where I realized that the missing ingredient for me with patients was time,” Dr. Brown said, “And that was not something that I had the resource to be able to give them more of.” Dr. Brown realized that a health coach could help take the clinic to the next level, in a way that better supports the patient throughout their journey.
“And so I made the decision and leapt out there and got myself a health coach and it changed everything,” said Dr. Brown, “Because I can spend my time trying to give the patient clarity about what’s going on and figure out direction, and drive the case—and the health coach is there to hold their hand and walk with them while they implement.”
This collaboration creates a network through which the patient can feel better supported in reaching their health goals. “So what it really means is a collaboration between myself as the practitioner, between the patient and the health coach,” explained Dr. Brown. “And three brains on one case, I think, is better than one. I truly believe that the more time patients spend with us, the better results they get. And so health coaching is how I’m able to provide them with that much time.”
Especially in the practice of Functional Medicine, a team of support makes a lot of sense. Indra Barathan MBBS, DRCOG, DFFP, MRCGP, IFM is a general practitioner in a private practice in the UK. Dr. Barathan said, “The core part of Functional Medicine is about making lifestyle changes, and change is tough for anybody. Even if you’ve got three PhDs and all the rest of it, still making changes to something that has been part of your life for such a long time, takes time. Sometimes you just need someone to hold that space for you. And health coaches really can do that.”
Adding a health coach to your team can help cultivate an environment in which everyone benefits. Coaches not only save time for practitioners, they also provide a network in which the patient can feel supported. As Dr. Cerit explained, “I think everything will be better in the future on our team—a Functional Medicine team. Not only doctors, not only the coach, not only the dietician. We all feel better with a team.”