Published: February 26, 2021
How do Functional Medicine Health Coaches work with their clients on nutrition, while staying within the scope of practice?
When talking about nutrition while in the role of a Functional Medicine Health Coach, it is important to understand Scope of Practice and the role of a health coach operating within the scope of practice. Whether you are working independently as a health coach or in a medical practice, it is important to engage the coach approach, asking exploratory, open-ended questions that put your client in the driver’s seat of their health goals. If a client makes the decision they are going to try a particular way of eating, then as a health coach, you can support and educate to help them make those changes.
What is a health coach’s scope of practice?
Scope of practice refers to the specific procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare provider is allowed to engage in according to the terms of the laws and regulations of where you practice. The role of a health coach is to guide, educate, and support your clients.
Scope of practice in health coaching is important for many reasons, as it keeps the integrity of our relationships with clients and with practitioners. At The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA), a health coach’s scope of practice is at the root of what we teach in our Health Coach Certification Program while learning how to use Functional Nutrition as a coach is taught in the program.
How can you work with clients on nutrition as a health coach?
Here are the top 4 ways health coaches work on nutrition with clients:
- Educating clients on nutrition by offering information, answering questions, and promoting self-discovery with connections between food and mood, behavior, or physical feelings. This is done by using tools such as rapport-building, brainstorming, and motivational interviewing techniques like asking open-ended questions to draw out health goals. When studying with FMCA, because of our collaboration with The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), you will gain access to The IFM Tool Kit. You will be able to use and understand various tools such as the IFM Diet, Nutrition, and the Lifestyle Journal, where clients can begin to track changes—how they felt when they ate a particular food, when certain cravings come up—to help them notice patterns and make better decisions.
- Supporting your client using positive psychology techniques and the VIA Character Strengths. At FMCA, we teach these tools and techniques to help provide a common language for you and your client to use when building rapport and working together on self-efficacy and goal attainment in nutrition. These tools are designed to teach you to understand your client’s best qualities, in order to support behavior change such as celebrating success or managing frustrations.
- Assisting your client in menu planning, ingredient substitutions, and providing resources for your client to self-educate. As an FMCA student, you will learn about IFM Food Plans to support various styles of eating such as the Core Food Plan, Cardiometabolic Food Plan, Elimination Diet Food Plan, and Mito Food Plan. These will serve as great educational pieces when discussing nutrition with your client. However, it is important to remain in the scope of practice while using these tools—never using them to diagnose, treat or prescribe. One great example given by an Admissions Team Member is that a nutritionist can direct a client to have a 1/4 cup of blueberries, while a health coach would explain why those blueberries would be beneficial for them (phytonutrients, etc.) but not be prescriptive.
- Discussing principles of healthy nutrition, food preparation, daily balanced diets, essential nutrients required by the body and their actions, and information about nutrients contained in foods or supplements are other ways you can work with clients on nutrition. There may be times when it’s really important to guide your client to seek a consultation with a nutritionist or doctor first.
When it comes down to it, the most important way a health coach can work with clients on nutrition is through self-efficacy, understanding that the client makes their own decisions on what’s going to work best for them. As a health coach, you are there to support and strategize on how your client is going to make nutritional changes that fit into their life.
Still have questions about how Functional Medicine Health Coaches work with clients on nutrition?
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