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Why Certification Matters

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by Joel Kreisberg, DC, PCC

Many of our readers are familiar with the new health coach certification that is launching this year.  Whether you do or not, this blog reviews in detail how certification works. As well, I’m going to argue that certification is essential. Our goal is to prepare our students for recognition by the ICHWC and the ICF. Let’s begin with the basics.

The International Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaching (ichwc.org) is currently accepting applications for the first certification exam for health and wellness coaching. The test itself is scheduled for September of this year. Applications are due by April 15th.  Over the past seven years, a team of prominent coaches, including but not limited to Michael Arloski, Linda Bark, Meg Jordan, Karen Lawson, Margaret Moore, and Ruth Q. Wolever, have successfully created this credentialing body.

Several steps are required for ICHWC to establish value in modern professional discourse. These include:

  • developing a scope of practice
  • identifying the skills required for health coaching
  • establishing an accreditation process for schools with standards that have to be met for recognition
  • developing an examination for the assessment of the knowledge and skills required for basic health coaching, and most importantly
  • establishing an organization structure to maintain and operate the entire process

The ICHWC has achieved all of these. The ICHWC is a not-for profit accreditation body that recognizes coaching programs and certifies individuals as health and wellness coaches.  The designation a coach will receive upon satisfactory qualification and completion is National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC).

With the many activities the ICHWC has completed, a key achievement is the partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).  The NBME was established in 1915 as an independent not-for-profit agency dedicated to protecting the public by assessing health professionals. The NBME oversees the board that grants licenses to physicians in the United States as well as many board certifications through other healthcare professions.   By partnering with the NBME, the ICHWC has successfully created a powerful partnership for the health coaching profession, with recognition by an essential agency in the medical establishment.

What is required to become a Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach?  Let’s take a closer look.  The NBC-HWC credential recognizes successful completion of three component elements for coaching qualification: education, work experience and successful performance on the certification exam.

Beginning with education, the ICHWC has completed provisional accreditation of roughly 60 programs.   Requirement for these programs includes four content areas—coaching structure, coaching process, knowledge of basic health and wellness issues, and ethics of coaching practice.  The details of these skills and required contact hours can be found in the Job Task Analysis, which forms the foundation of health and wellness training programs recognized by the ICHWC.  Programs that are provisionally accredited provide both written and live assessment of their students’ coaching knowledge and skills. The assumption is that individuals who complete an accredited program are competent to sit for the national exam.  Accredited programs offer a minimum of 78 hours of required curriculum of which a minimum of 30 hours are delivered synchronously in a live classroom.  Teleosis Institute’s Certificate Program in Narrative Health Coaching has met these requirements and is provisionally certified by the ICHWC.

Graduates from an approved program are required to complete 50 coaching sessions with individuals or groups.  These sessions are a minimum of 20 minutes long and must be 75% coaching rather than educational. This information is reported by the coach using the ICHWC Coaching Log.  With the certificate of completion from a certified program and the completed log of coaching, the coach applicant applies to sit for the Health and Wellness Coaching Certifying Examination.  The content of this test is based on the ICHWC Job Task Analysis. More information can be found on the ICHWC site in the HWCCE content outline.  The examination consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and must be completed within a 4-hour period.  The total fee for the examination process is currently $350.

Upon successful recognition by the ICHWC, certified coaches will be required to be recertified every three years and must complete 45 hours of continuing education and submit proof of 100 sessions.

By the end of 2017, the first cohort of National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach’s will have successfully entered the marketplace. From our perspective at Teleosis, this is a good thing.  We feel that certification serves several functions.  First, certification assures that consumers can distinguish competency for health coaches. For many years, ‘health coach’ has been a title pretty much anyone could attached to their name.  With the ICHWC certification, consumers have a recognizable standard developed by and maintained by an independent certifying agency.  Second, certification represents a consensually agreed upon curriculum. Rather than individual schools setting their own agenda, consumers and health professionals now can rely upon an agreed upon curriculum for those seeking to add health coaching skills or becoming a health coach. Certification is a visible symbol, representing a professional identity, this brings together coaches and coaching institutions alike in collectively supporting ongoing growth and development.

Finally, with a standard of skills and competency, certification provides health professionals and institutions with a means to better integrate into healthcare as a whole. Having witnessed successful growth and integration of several other health professions over the last thirty years, most notably acupuncture, I am clear that professional board certification provides a necessary recognition for institutions such as hospitals, health insurance companies and corporate wellness programs to more easily hire and offer health coaching services.  Thus, board certification is likely to increase the already rapid growth of the health coaching profession in the marketplace.

We are pleased and excited to be a part of the new board certification in health and wellness coaching.  We will do everything in our power to implement our accreditation with the ICHWC and we will encourage our students to sit for the examination.  We believe that it is essential for professionals to work together to relieve suffering and to support increased access to our services.

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