June 1, 2018 - Corinne Basch

Integrative Health Coaching

Priscilla Abercrombie, RN, NP, PhD, NBC-HWC

Health Coaching

Although there are many different definitions, the goal of health coaching is to partner with clients to assist them in formulating realistic achievable goals that will help them attain better health. Integrative health coaching involves using a holistic definition of health (broadly defined as the 7 core areas: spirituality, resilience, environment, nutrition, movement, relationships and sleep) and discussing a range of conventional and non-conventional approaches to achieve better health. Unfortunately, health coaching is a field that is poorly defined and unregulated.


Since the profession is not regulated there is great deal of variability in training in both coaching and health care. Some coaches are licensed health care professionals who have sought training in coaching. Others are health coaches with very little background in health care. For instance, Integrative Nutrition ( offers a health coaching certificate but the training is focused on nutrition, coaching and business development.

Approaches to coaching also vary. Some coaches emphasize a guiding approach by providing structure and support, open ended questions, and reflections while others use a directive approach offering health information, resources and a plan for the client. In my mind, effective coaches are present, nonjudgmental, and listen deeply. They support their clients in meeting their health goals and guide them toward making meaningful changes in their lives.

Integrative or Holistic Health Coaching Programs (not a complete list)

Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine Health Coaching:

Integrative Health Coaching is a client-centered, relational approach to working with individuals collaboratively to address the health and wellbeing of the whole person. It acknowledges the interdependent roles of mind, body and spirit, and the innate healing capacity within each person, with an emphasis on self-care. An integrative health coach forms a partnership with individuals or groups to empower and support them in achieving their personal goals related to optimal health and wellness.

Duke Integrative Medicine Health Coaching:

Integrative Health Coaching empowers clients to make lasting behavior changes that are the foundation for a lifetime of health and well-being. Health is impacted by multiple interconnected dimensions. These dimensions include the choices one makes that affect their physical, mental, spiritual well-being and the medical care approaches utilized for their health. An Integrative Health Coach helps support their clients in discovering ways to successfully implement healthy lifestyle behaviors across these various dimensions into their unique lives.

American Holistic Nurses Association

Nurse coaching is a skilled, purposeful, results-oriented and structured client interaction that is provided by Registered Nurses for the purpose of promoting achievement of client goals.

Nurse coaches promote and facilitate the growth, healing and wellbeing of the whole person by using coaching principles and healing modalities that integrate body-mind-emotion-spirit-environment. Nurse coaches are required to have several years of nursing education and experience as a foundation to developing their coaching skills.

Nurse coaches integrate coaching competencies into any setting and specialty area of nursing practice to facilitate a process of change or development that assists individuals and/or groups to actualize their potential.

The International Nurse Coach Association offers a certification course for nurses.

Board Certification

Health and Wellness Coaching

The International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching has formed a partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners to offer a National Board Certification for Health & Wellness Coaches (NBC-HWC).

Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness and, thereby, enhance well-being. In the course of their work health and wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.

Nurse Coach

The American Nurses Association has endorsed national board certification through the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). There are two different certifications available, Nurse coach board certified (NC-BC) and Health and wellness nurse coach board certified (HWNC-BC).


Glob Adv Health Med. 2013 May;2(3):66-74. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2013.034.

Integrative Health Coach Training: A Model for Shifting the Paradigm Toward Patient-centricityand Meeting New National Prevention Goals.
Smith LL1, Lake NH2, Simmons LA3, Perlman A4, Wroth S5, Wolever RQ6.

Link to article:

A Systematic Review of the Literature on Health and Wellness Coaching: Defining a Key Behavioral intervention in Healthcare

Ruth Q. Wolever, Leigh Ann Simmons, Gary A. Sforzo, Diana Dill, Miranda Kaye, Elizabeth M. Bechard, Mary Elaine Southard, Mary Kennedy, Justine Vosloo, Nancy Yang

Glob Adv Health Med. 2013 Jul; 2(4): 38–57. Published online 2013 Jul 1. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2013.042

PMCID: PMC3833550  Link to article:     Select item 383353510.

Group Health Coaching: Strengths, Challenges, and Next Steps

Colin Armstrong, Ruth Q. Wolever, Linda Manning, Roy Elam, III, Margaret Moore, Elizabeth Pegg Frates, Heidi Duskey, Chelsea Anderson, Rebecca L. Curtis, Susan Masemer, Karen Lawson

Glob Adv Health Med. 2013 May; 2(3): 95–102. Published online 2013 May 1. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2013.019

PMCID: PMC3833535

Link to article:

Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 May;4(3):46-56. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2015.039.

National training and education standards for health and wellness coaching: the path to national certification.
Jordan M1, Wolever RQ1, Lawson K1, Moore M1.

Link to article:


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