Doctor’s Prescription: Life Coaching Belongs in Our Healthcare System
Doctors at the Bethesda Free Medical Clinic where I volunteer prescribe life coaching. Like doctors everywhere, they are experts trained to diagnose medical problems and to prescribe the right treatments.
They advise their patients to stop smoking, start working out, and stop worrying so much, but ultimately they grasp that they aren’t trained to help patients change their behavior. So, they choose to prescribe life coaching as the right treatment for their patients. My clinic’s doctors are an exception rather than the rule in today’s healthcare delivery system.
I have worked in our healthcare system for close to twenty years, yet this is the first medical setting I have encountered where doctors and life coaches work closely together in the primary care environment. Our physicians treat illness while life coaches help with changing habits (thoughts, beliefs, expectations). Our clinic’s healthcare delivery model is definitely not the mainstream, but shouldn’t it be?
The doctors at Bethesda were trained in and have practiced in the conventional healthcare that we are all very familiar with in the USA today. Yet, at our clinic, they have come to recognize and embrace the value of another type of provider of health – the life coach and so, they prescribe life coaching as part of the treatment.
A life coach’s duties at our clinic consist of helping people to implement and sustain new behaviors, lifestyles and attitudes that are conducive to optimal health. We look for patterns in thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or reactions and bring these patterns to the client’s awareness in a way that may allow him or her to change. Most importantly, we do not see our clients as “broken”.
I have partnered with many clients in eliciting their agendas and helping them to discover solutions to their problems. So far, the outcomes have been fairly impressive and included smoking cessation, weight loss, drinking cessation, relationship re-building, and recovery from depressive or mood disorders.
One of the reasons our clinic embraced life coaching is because Bethesda itself is an unconventional clinic. It does not participate with any health insurance companies just like the practice of life coaching is not covered by any health insurance plans.
Our doctors have the freedom to do so because they are not constrained by the pay per service reimbursement model.
My clinic’s model has the OUTSIDER written all over it in capital letters. If you, as a patient or client, had an option to participate in a healthcare delivery model that included treatment of illness AND behavior changing support, would you choose the outsider model? Some people in the behavioral health community have already spoken on behalf of such model, as reported in Huffington Post for example.
If you were a coach, would you be open to consider the outsider approach I have highlighted in this post? Why or why not?
If you were a physician, would you consider implementing the approach that Bethesda’s physicians have implemented? If so, what would you need to have in place in order to make you feel that there is value added to your service?