Published: April 23, 2021
We know there is a lot of conflicting information out there on what a health coach can and cannot do, such as ordering and interpreting lab tests or prescribing food plans. The key to becoming a great health coach is to always stay within your scope of practice for what you are trained to do.
When you study to become a certified Functional Medicine Health Coach at The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA), you’ll learn the health coach’s scope of practice, why it’s important, and how to stay in scope. Wondering what a health coach can do in scope? We break it down here.
What does a health coach do?
Health and wellness coaches are part wellness authority, part supportive mentor, and part behavior-change specialist. They partner with clients seeking to enhance their well-being through self-directed, lasting changes in alignment with their values. Health coaches often work with clients to implement individualized food and lifestyle changes that meet the client’s unique needs and health goals while staying in their scope of practice.
What is a health coach’s scope of practice?
The health coach’s scope of practice refers to the process of coaching and the rules that you follow when you are doing anything related to coaching, whether it be writing a blog, or coaching a group or an individual. Why is it important? Like doctors, we vow to “do no harm,” and we do not want to act in any way that would harm our clients. The general scope of practice also protects health coaches from liabilities and lawsuits depending on state or county guidelines. Health coaches working in the scope of practice not only protect the client and health coach, but they also protect the integrity of the field. By holding health coaching to its true standards, we elevate the field, creating space to be taken seriously as industry leaders.
Health coaches are there to support their clients through a food plan prescribed from their doctor or physician. They can guide their clients on various recipes that fit those prescribed food plans, and how to shop for them. They can educate their clients on how to read a nutrition label to help them navigate the grocery store. They can motivate their clients, because change is challenging, and we all need a cheerleader when we are trying something new!
On the flip side, health coaches do not diagnose, order or assess lab tests. They do not prescribe any nutritional food or exercise plans, supplements or medication. Health coaches also do not treat or act as an expert in what you think a client should do. Diagnosing, prescribing, and treating are within a doctor’s scope of practice and should only be done by a qualified physician. As health coaches, our job is to create self-efficacy, and enable our clients to become the experts in themselves by giving them the empowerment to become the authority—and that is where behavior-change and success happen.
We don’t expect you to know the scope of practice right of the bat! When you enroll in the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, you will be given the education and the tools needed to help you support your clients. We are the only program designed in collaboration with The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) and approved by The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC), which means that you are getting the gold standard in health coaching education from top experts in the field.
Ready to learn more about our immersive, fully online, and internationally recognized Health Coach Certification program?