The Missing Profession In Wellness

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A doctor tells a patient to lose weight, eat right and get more exercise. The patient leaves the doctor’s office with no specific next steps to follow.

She’s wondering how on earth to actually master the know-how to do this while balancing work, family and community promises.

Over the next few days, she scans diet books, buys a few low-calorie entrees, takes a walk around the block…and before long, even those tiny steps have evaporated and it’s business as usual.

Sure, part of the problem can be a lack of readiness to change. But the complexity of making many simultaneous lifestyle changes simply overwhelms many consumers. When their initial efforts falter, it confirms their secret fear that they simply can’t do this. They don’t know where to turn for comprehensive assistance that pulls all the pieces together.

It’s easy for wellness professionals to say that lots of information is available in books, on the Internet, and elsewhere.

We expect consumers to distinguish junk advice from sensible guidance and then convert this half-understood information into a detailed and personalized plan for change based on their specific needs, temperament, family and work situation, existing health conditions, etc.

Have you ever seen this happen?

Can you actually picture this happening? How many people do you know of — firsthand — who’ve actually done this?

Even wellness centers that offer a laundry list of services — nutrition classes, personal training, etc. — are missing the bigger opportunity.

Why? Because they still force the consumer to decide which services they need to solve their problems. As a result, many people overlook services that could help them simply due to lack of familiarity. Or they choose the right services — at the wrong time. They hire a personal trainer when nutritional counseling would be the best place for them to start.

What people need and want is someone qualified to help them pull all the pieces together. Yet none of the widely recognized health and wellness professions see that as their primary role:

  • Dietitians primarily focus on nutrition and healthful eating
  • Physical therapists address immediate musculoskeletal problems
  • Physicians diagnose and treat illness and disease once they develop
  • Personal trainers mainly help people in good health improve their physical fitness
  • Health psychologists identify and overcome psychological barriers that affect health and wellness
  • Clinical exercise specialists and kinesiotherapists focus on physical activity
  • Health promotion professionals are mostly found in public health organizations
  • Health and wellness coaches usually focus on adherence with clinical treatment recommendations

What’s missing from this list? The therapeutic lifestyle change professional – someone who combines the best of consumer health and wellness and traditional healthcare with a practical, grounded ability to truly partner with their clients to jointly develop and implement workable plans.

This role collaborates with the client to discover and then integrate the client’s commitments, resources and priorities with:

  • Medical recommendations of the client’s healthcare team
  • Recommendations for general wellness (physical activity, healthful eating, sufficient sleep, stress management, etc.)
  • Evidence-based health psychology strategies like motivational interviewing for supporting people in making lasting lifestyle changes

The outcome: a collaborative and prioritized approach to lifestyle change.

It’s not directive (“What you need to do is…”) and it’s not a mindless daily nag (“Did you take a walk today?”).

How can wellness businesses seize this opportunity?

Finding someone who can fill this role is difficult — almost a matter of sheer luck. Far too many wellness coaches and trainers take a very tactical and task-oriented approach focused on instruction and knowledge-transfer, not the integrated, prioritized and collaborative client-driven approach that we’d like to see.

Solve this problem, and you’ll build a business that’ll last a lifetime.