Change is a journey, that often involves resistance.
There are many challenges a health coach can face when working with clients. Making lifestyle and behavior changes is a difficult and bumpy road. While a health coach is there to help clients make progress towards their goals, it isn’t always going to be smooth sailing. Sometimes the only thing holding clients back is themselves.
Client resistance and non-compliance can be difficult obstacles to overcome for both the client and the health coach. For clients, it can result in a lack of progress and an increase in self-doubt. For health coaches, non-compliance may contribute to frustration and even burnout. But by better understanding the causes and signs of resistance, health coaches can better prepare to help clients through it.
Here are seven ways health coaches coach through client resistance. Some techniques are as easy as asking the right questions, while others may encourage further education. But before health coaches dive into ways to coach through resistance, it’s important to recognize the signs and causes of health coaching resistance.
Recognizing Signs of Resistance
Resistance to coaching can manifest in various ways, hindering clients’ willingness to change and engage fully in the coaching process. Here are some common signs of resistance for coaches to be aware of:
- Defensiveness: When their beliefs and behaviors are challenged or questioned, clients may become defensive. This leads to a lack of openness and receptiveness between clients and coaches.
- Procrastination: A hesitancy or delay in action can hinder a client’s progress. This lack of action can result in clients feeling stuck in their situation.
- Denial or avoidance: Avoiding certain topics or denying the impact of behaviors can hinder a client’s self-awareness and growth.
- Repetition of patterns: Repeatedly engaging in behaviors that do not align with their goals indicates a client’s resistance to health coaching.
- Lack of commitment: Clients may not fully engage in the coaching process, show inconsistency, or resist implementing agreed-upon actions.
Understanding Causes of Resistance:
To effectively address health coaching resistance, it’s important to explore its underlying causes. Some common causes of resistance include:
- Fear: Fear of stepping outside of their comfort zone can lead to resistance from clients. Fear of the unknown, failure, or consequences can hinder a client’s openness to coaching.
- Lack of trust: Feeling a lack of trust can keep clients from opening up to a health coach or fully engaging in the coaching process. Building rapport and creating a safe space can alleviate these concerns.
- Self-doubt and limiting beliefs: Resistance to growth can come from deep-seated beliefs. Clients may doubt their capabilities to change.
- Unresolved emotions or past experiences: Clients’ resistance can come from unresolved emotions or past experiences. These issues may be triggered by coaching topics or methods.
- External influences: External factors such as social norms, family traditions, and peer pressure can influence clients and create resistance to coaching.
Ways to Coach Through Resistance
When clients are resistant and non-compliant, there are many strategies a health coach can use to coach through resistance. These techniques allow for a health coach to assist their clients in breaking through what is holding them back.
- Embrace Positive Psychology: Encourage clients to focus on the positive aspects of changing instead of what is wrong and how to fix it. This shift in perspective allows clients to see the brighter future ahead and the small achievements along the way.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions: Coaches can encourage clients to think about their reasons for motivation and change. By actively engaging in their own self-discovery and gaining insight into their decisions, they are more likely to commit to making change.
- Establish Rapport: Building a connection between the health coach and the client is the foundation of every successful coaching relationship. This ensures open communication and trust throughout the coaching process. Good rapport is created through active listening, showing understanding and empathy, and creating a genuine connection with a client.
- Create a Safe Space: Clients need a non-judgmental space to feel comfortable being open and honest with a health coach and with themselves. Coaches can create these spaces by establishing clear boundaries, ethical guidelines, and communication ensuring confidentiality. Coaches should also use active listening and validation skills to create an atmosphere free from criticism, allowing clients to express themselves.
- Adapting the Coach Approach: Every client is different and will need different levels of support, especially when it comes to resistance. What works for one person may not work for another. Health coaches need to be flexible and open to using new techniques when working with clients. Tailor coaching techniques to each client.
- Growing Your Education: By adding new skills to your health coaching toolkit, health coaches will have access to more options when it comes to client resistance. Expanding your education may offer a new way to approach a problem with a client or offer insight into a client’s struggles.
- Seek Out Additional Support: Sometimes a client’s resistance stems from a deeper issue that falls outside a health coach’s scope of practice. When this happens, it’s important to recognize your limitations and refer clients to the appropriate resources and professionals they need.
Resistance is a natural part of change. It is the role of a health coach to support clients and guide them through overcoming this resistance as they move through their health journey. By understanding the causes of health coaching resistance and being able to identify the signs, coaches can address resistance in a manageable and productive way. There will always be setbacks along the way to reaching a goal, so coaches need to encourage clients to acknowledge their resistance, navigate through it, and embrace change.