Why Integrative Health Coaching?
My doctor told me I was getting old. He sat there well-composed, across from me behind his grand mahogany desk. His white coat barely cast a shadow in the gloss of the wood. Still adjusting my clothes after hastily getting dressed post-examination, I was halfway out the door, checking that I had my keys, purse and the next thing for my to-do-list. Me, getting old – I was stunned. I was only there for a check-up. Knowing that I needed to get dog food, I heard him say something about things not being the same, that I should lower my expectations for what my health was now that I was getting old, blah, blah, blah. I was indignant. I felt offended. And I did not feel old. Deflated, I did feel scared. Composing myself as I shut the door, it felt good to gather myself and walk away. That office visit was almost 20 years ago.
I wasn’t feeling well. This time I was living along the Mystic River in the midst of trying to remedy myself with a plant-based vegan diet. I was feeling worse instead of better. Something had been off in my system for a long time, but I hadn’t identified the cause. I went to a licensed naturopathic doctor. She welcomed me into a quiet comfortable room. She was kind, caring and inquisitive. She said we could do some tests. The blood analysis came back with numbers of extremely low iron. Driving home from the appointment I suddenly remembered that the previous doctor, the one who years ago had told me I was getting old, had also told me that I had low iron levels. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t remembered this and that I’d done nothing for years for my low iron.
Medical recommendations serve the health and wellbeing of patients, and yet patients may seem disinclined to help themselves in their own health. Low patient engagement is a term new to me. Used in the medical field, it refers to the phenomena of patients receiving medical recommendations that are ignored. Research studies attribute rising chronic health conditions to low patient engagement. The science of wellbeing reveals that knowing what to do does not make it happen. It is a bit like self-help books sitting on the bedside table gathering dust. So what stops us and what stopped me?
I had to think back to that doctor appointment. I remember this as a quick in-and-out annual thing to get done. The check-up was something to get over with since I felt healthy. Probing into my forgotten memory bank, I vaguely recall thinking that low iron wasn’t a big deal. I believe I had even reasoned that I’d make an effort to eat more hamburgers. Low iron seemed like something that would go away on its own, being nothing that needed much involvement from me. But relying on my own self-care, went poorly. I hadn’t changed anything, especially since I hadn’t remembered that I had a problem. Alone with my self-care of no-care, I ended up going years with very low iron levels.
Our medical experts have important recommendations benefiting our general health. But these recommendations rely on our ability to hear them. To hear means being able to listen. Alone in this particular setting of professional medical care, I wasn’t prepared to hear an unexpected dooming perspective. In hindsight, I felt I’d done well to exit the room. My priority had been on gathering my composure, appearing polite, and nicely telling him thank you. Too shaken to hear anything outside of my defense mode, he may have provided some helpful recommendations. If so, they did me no good, unable to hear or listen to them. Even the simple action to take iron supplements was missed.
Health, and our relationship with it is very individual. My relationship with health has been a surprising journey. Health is not a steady state, and that has been surprising to me. Many times I’ve arrived in a place of comfortable health and each time something changed. Surprise. Maybe a slow learner but I have come to accept that my relationship with health is a relationship with change.
Change is challenging, especially without support. In this current Covid Crisis, there is a search of some kind of normal in the upheaval of threat and change. In the face of threat, coping or denial may appear to be convenient allies. Alone with change we may do our best, but when our best is to deny a problem, to not hear advice or ignore recommendations, health becomes the problem. When health becomes the problem, change gets normalized as decline, and in our culture, decline of health is called aging. In my case, it was referred to as “getting old”. (American cultural concepts around aging needs further examination in a future blog post.)
So why Integrative Health Coaching? Clients coming to an Integrative Health Coach are no longer alone with change. Integrative Health Coaches partner with their clients to accompany them along their self-discovered journey of health. Clients have a champion advocating for their best health, with their best interests at heart. Change is no longer a problem to fight against but a natural process to be harnessed with positive engagement. Health issues, concerns and medical recommendations are welcomed. Goals and values of health and wellbeing are invited. A new profession in the science of health behavior change, Integrative Health Coaching is a team approach that bridges medical recommendations with personal individualized health optimization.
Integrative Health Clients engage a service of support for their desired personal health behavior change. Navigating behavior change involves complexities of many inter-relationships. When undertaken alone, it may degrade into a self-care of no-care. Integrative Health Coaches empower their clients through the science of health behavior change in the attainment of personal health goals. Achieving sustainable change through self-selected lifestyle choice, clients are empowered to continually reassess and rebalance their relationship with health over time and circumstance.
The coaching relationship is a partnership of collaboration. Integrative Health Coaching is a profession of partnering in a client-coach relationship for personalized whole person health. Integrative Health Coaching is based on “listening together” as client and coach. “Hearing together” the goals, needs, values and concerns of the client that may arrive with a thunderous applause or a hushed whisper. This is a relationship of welcoming acceptance to what is and what could be. The inclusion of the whole person, the vulnerability, openness and potential, enables clients to explore any areas of their choosing. It may reveal areas where they have been tone deaf to any signals of chronic health conditions. Empowered to engage with change for the better, clients choose the action steps that are most important to them. They initiate lifestyle choice with increased confidence. They engage in a new lifestyle behavior through the power of personal choice.
I am an Integrative Health Coach. My coaching is based on body, breath, science, and mind. Trained at Duke Integrative Medicine, I coach an evidence-based process model of health behavior change. I’m taking on new clients who are interested in their health, wanting to identify what optimal health is for them, and coach them to make it happen.
Each of us is unique with individualized heritage, nuance, circumstance, and concerns. Optimizing health for each individual has a variety of faces, facts and figures. Partnering at the interface of health behavior change, Integrative Health Coaching supports self-discovered optimal health. Integrative Health Coaching empowers change from choice. Health is a self-discovered process; have you discovered yours?