Functional Medicine Certified Health Coaches are transforming the healthcare landscape. They’re bringing together diverse approaches to wellness and making them actionable and accessible through positive psychology coaching.
This translation—taking health and wellness concepts and implementing them via action plans for sustainable behavior change—is why a Health Coach is a critical part of any practice’s collaborative care team. FMCA alumna Ashley Howell’s story shows how the combination of different areas of study—Functional Medicine, functional nutrition, mind-body medicine, and positive psychology—can help coaches “put the pieces together,” strengthen their partnerships with doctors, and ignite behavior change.
With a background in music, healthcare wasn’t always part of the plan for January 2016 class graduate Ashley Howell. But thanks to a day job in a compounding pharmacy, her interest in health and wellness grew into a passion. Health Coaching called to her, and after earning her certification through another program, Ashley started partnering with doctors. It was through this partnership that she was introduced to Functional Medicine. The more she learned about Functional Medicine, the more she connected with the material and wanted to go deeper. She began taking courses through The Institute for Functional Medicine and building her expertise.
Ashley felt engaged in what she was learning about Functional Medicine, functional nutrition, and mind-body medicine, and could see in it so much potential for helping others. But although she was channeling her passion for health and wellness into her coaching, she realized in retrospect that she still hadn’t put all the pieces together. It was later, when she learned about FMCA and decided to enroll, that she was able to develop the integral competency that brought everything together: positive psychology coaching.
“One thing I’d never been educated on was positive psychology,” Ashley reflects, “which is ironic, considering how critical that piece is when it comes to creating behavior change in people!” In particular, it was FMCA’s “Coaching in Action” video series (part of our curriculum) that she calls “a game-changer” and which helped her reach an insight about igniting true behavior change: “I realized that throwing my knowledge at people all day long really wasn’t helping them like I hoped it was,” Ashley says. Coaching isn’t just about having expertise and delivering knowledge, but about supporting clients through real, sustainable change to reach health goals, and this perspective has transformed her approach to coaching.
As an FMCA student, Ashley honed her positive psychology coaching skills and learned to use her Functional Medicine knowledge in new ways. Now an alumna, she continues to partner with her incredible team of doctors and recently added a few new letters after her name: FMCHC, for Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach.
Prospective students often ask why they should attend our program if they already hold a health coaching certification. From Ashley’s perspective, FMCA’s curriculum included things she simply didn’t have exposure to elsewhere. “I’m MUCH better equipped to implement treatment plans with patients because of the FMCA program,” she reflects. Thanks to her passion and dedication to learning, she’s now bringing new confidence and know-how to the clients she sees and the doctors with whom she partners.
So what’s next for Ashley? “My plan for the future is to continue being an advocate for health coaching in the world of medicine,” she says. With her insatiable appetite for learning and sharing her expertise with others, this seems like a natural evolution. She’s no stranger to speaking engagements; Ashley was recently asked to speak for the Metagenics Advanced Practitioner Services Program (MAPS), an educational program designed to help practitioners implement lifestyle medicine in their practice. She looks forward to more chances to “engage the medical community about the necessity of health coaching in patient care.”
We asked Ashley what advice she had for people considering FMCA. Her response: “Just do it! If you’re interested in working in a more clinical environment, do it. If you want to go beyond educating clients and actually facilitate change in them, do it. If you want to better understand your own health and be part of a community of like-minded, positive people who build each other up and make each other better, do it!”