Doctor’s Prescription: Life Coaching Belongs in Our Healthcare System

April 20, 2014


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?

12 Comments. Leave new

This makes sense. The break – fix healthcare model is too expensive. Often simple, yet difficult to achieve lifestyle changes can result in much better long term outcomes.

Renata Kulpa
April 22, 2014 9:02 am

Changing habits, thoughts, beliefs and expectations could indeed result in better long term outcomes for patients who need it, which is close to 50% of the population. Thanks for your comment John.

Dawn Howard Weaver
April 22, 2014 6:34 am

Good Morning Renata,

I was just discussing this same matter with a colleague. His wife is in the medical industry and she seems to think within 10 years hospitals and doctors everywhere will be working with coaches as part of the patients’ progress. And, the coaches services will be covered by health insurance.

This is fantastic!




Hi Dawn, I am hopeful that coaches will be part of the integrative healthcare delivery system but the reimbursement part of it, under the current conditions anyway, seems a daunting proposition. Have a great day!


I’m not easily imeprssed. . . but that’s impressing me! 🙂


Thanks for your input. For some reason my reply to your comment shows up below coming from a Guest?!

Lyndah Malloy-Glover
April 26, 2014 4:06 pm

I have been fortunate in my nursing career, I am a retires hospice nurse, educator/case manager. My orientation to healthcare is holistic. The freedoms afforded me as one whose practice was end of life fifteen + years ago was amazing. We worked outside the box as a rule. the mind-emotion/body/spirit approach to health and healing is where we need to be. I fully support the model.



Good to know that there are similar models elsewhere in our country.
Thanks Lyndah!

Lyndah Malloy-Glover
April 28, 2014 9:19 am

Any place where there is a hospice this approach lives … what a blessing!


Youu mad some good points there. I looked on the internet too
find out mor about the issue and found most people wil goo along with your views on this website.


Thank you for your comments. I do hope that more people will appreciate my point of you on life coaching as an integral part of healthcare delivery system.


That’s a sharp way of thinnikg about it.


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