By Joel Kreisberg, DC, PCC, CCH
Recently, classes at Teleosis were approved for continuing education for health coaches by the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching. As a coach practitioner myself, I’m a big believer in lifelong learning for many reasons. Annually, I complete over 40 hours of continuing education just to maintain my license and certifications. For the most part I look forward to these classes since they not only enrich my work life, but also provide needed perspective as to how I show up, serving as a guidepost for self-development.
As a developmental approach, Narrative Health Coaching (NHC) goes beyond simply learning specific coaching skills. Fundamentally, it is a commitment to ongoing learning. We know that regular cycles of learning strengthen our ability to try new things, refine behaviors that we need to support growth in others, and help us be better able to articulate the change process for others. We often don’t have to look far to find our limitations, and the NHC methodology powerfully transforms perceived limitations into new opportunities for growth through cyclical learning.
We emphasize cycles of learning in our classes. In a coaching session, a class, or a program, we are asked to set intentions, seek new information, apply what we are learning, assess the value and effectiveness of the new skills, then reset as we start the cycle over again. Personally, each year I choose a new area to explore for growth with my continuing education classes. This year, I am engaging in emotional development (EQ) with Daniel Goleman. Last year I studied positive psychology with Robert Biswas-Diner. The previous year it was clinical health coaching, with William Appelgate.
Coaching skills cover a diverse set of interpersonal capacities. Certification programs provide only the basics, leaving skill refinement for ongoing learning. The International Coach Federation (ICF) offers three levels of certification, Associate, Professional and Master, recognizing that to become a master coach requires a decade or more of practice with clients as well as hundreds more hours of continuing education. As we reflect upon our work with clients, we can identify gaps in our skillsets. By annually engaging in a concentrated learning experience we increase our knowledge and skills, strengthening our capacity for healing work. Practicing new moves is essential for keeping ourselves fit as coaches.
Perhaps my favorite learning environment is the Integrative Health Coaching Clinic. For several reasons, this is the most effective health coaching class for learning new skills and refining old ones. Here’s a brief class description: I work directly with a client for seven sessions over the course of 14 weeks (all online). Students observe me working with the client.
After each live session, students spend an hour actively discussing dynamics of the coaching session such as challenges that have arisen, potential new ways of working with the client, the reasoning for my choices and a review of the basics Narrative Health Coaching. I post my session notes and my healing plan for each session. In the asynchronous online classroom, we review the different types of sessions: intake, offer, cycles of learning and completion. Students share their observations in the online discussion forums. All classes are recorded so that if a participant misses class, she or he can keep up to date on the client’s progress.
Why is this class so dynamic? First, most coaching schools are committed to learning coaching through practice; thus, everyone learns to coach without watching a professional. There is a good reason for this: we want beginning coaches to experience coaching with a fresh perspective in order to find their own style, learning through direct experience. I have yet to see a health coach arrive in my clinic with any experience watching a master coach. I’ve learned from my students that watching a seasoned professional work is a powerful experience – so powerful that more than half of the students in the Integrative Health Coaching Clinic are repeating the class, some for the fourth or fifth time!
The clinic is often the first exposure for many coaches to developmental coaching, which emphasizes ongoing growth and development of a full contingent of personal and professional capacities such as cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, somatic and ethical. For example, several clinic sessions ago, I found myself working with a client with serious mental health challenges. After three sessions, it became clear that coaching was not appropriate. I referred her for psychological counseling. The participants learned about my challenges and watched me find the right professional for the client. I brought in a new client for the rest of that clinic session.
Most clients find me because they are not responding to conventional medical care. Students witness clients’ struggling with active physical and mental challenges. The most recent client has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for 20 years. She found sanctuary and healing in health coaching, allowing her to better make sense of diverse medical interventions.
Interestingly, the clients in the clinic do very well. Senior students believe it’s the clinic students that add extra value to the coaching encounter. While the client may at first be worried about being coached in front of the group, most often, by the last session, the client feels supported by the team of practitioners. Our clinic is an active social structure that supports ongoing reflection. One previous clinic client, with chronic pain syndrome, was grateful for having such a supportive group of coaches to work with, even though I’m the only one who actively coached her.
How is your commitment to lifelong learning? Do you actively plan your continuing education hours to get the most of hours needed for recertification? Continuing education and lifelong learning are a cornerstone for getting good results with our clients, and for increasing confidence and poise as a coach. As we find out more about ourselves, we are better able to connect with our clients and in turn better facilitate their learning. Our fourteen week Integrative Health Coaching Clinic is unique; very few health coaches model coaching in a dynamic online classroom setting. We start again September 17th 2018 with a new client and new coaches as students. Seasoned coaches and recently certified health coaches seeking to deepen their skills will join together. You’ll find friends on this journey.
Our classes have been approved for Continuing Education by the following organizations: