Having Goals is One Thing, Taking Action is Another
If you’re like most people, your health and wellness are top priorities. You likely have one or more health goals, and changes that you need to make to achieve those goals.
But having goals is one thing. Taking action is another. Many people struggle with taking consistent action to reach their health goals. They get caught in an endless cycle of making then abandoning goals. And they never seem to make meaningful progress.
If you’ve experienced this yourself, it’s normal to feel discouraged. But the solution is not to give up! If you’re not sure what to do next, it may be time to get the help of a Health & Wellness Coach.
When you work with a Health & Wellness Coach, one of your objectives will be to develop a plan for achieving the changes you want to make. Your change plan will define what success looks like to you and map out how you’ll get there.
There’s no single formula for creating a change plan. Different approaches work for different people. But one of the most effective methods for lasting change is to use a client-centered approach.
Client-centered change relies on self-discovery. If you’ve been looking outwards for solutions, a client-centered change plan may be just what you need to finally reach your health and wellness goals.
What is a client-centered change plan?
You may be thinking: aren’t all change plans centered on the client?
But “client-centered” means more than just focusing on the client.
When a coach uses other approaches, often they take on the role of the “expert” or “authority figure.” It’s natural for you to look to them for guidance, advice, and direction. They usually lead the conversation and try to shepherd you in the direction that they think is best for you. As a result, the power dynamic is unequal.
This is very different from a client-centered approach.
When your Health & Wellness Coach uses a client-centered approach, they will not act as an “expert.” Your Health & Wellness Coach will only act as a partner, collaborator, and sounding board. They’ll treat you like an equal. And when it comes to your life, you’ll take on the role of the expert. After all, no one knows more about your life than you do! This means that you, not your coach, will lead the conversations and do most of the talking.
As you talk through your thoughts and feelings, your Health & Wellness Coach won’t try to interfere. They won’t impose their own interpretations, explanations, or solutions. And they won’t try to pinpoint your problems for you.
It will always be up to you to arrive at your own conclusions.
When developing a client-centered change plan, your Health & Wellness Coach’s primary role is to encourage you to speak freely. Because the more you talk, the faster you’ll be able to identify your barriers to change and ways to overcome them.
Your coach will facilitate the conversation by creating an environment that’s safe, empathetic, and non-judgmental. Complete acceptance and support are key aspects of a client-centered approach.
Through this process of open and honest self-discovery, you’ll be able to gain insights into your behavior. You’ll have a better understanding of where you are, and how you can move forward. You’ll then be able to develop a plan for achieving lasting change.
Why is the client-centered approach effective?
The client-centered approach came out of the work of psychologist Carl Rogers. Rogers believed that people naturally desire growth and self-actualization. In other words, people want to fulfill their potential and be the best versions of themselves.
Rogers also believed that with the right environment, people are capable of achieving change themselves. They already have all the resources they need within themselves. They just need to discover them. The wisdom of an “expert” isn’t necessary.
That’s why the client-centered approach hangs on self-discovery and self-directed change. Change becomes possible through this process because it:
Helps you achieve personal growth
Reduces or eliminates negative feelings
Increases your self-esteem
Increases your openness to change
Increases your understanding of yourself
By tapping into your self-knowledge, you’ll also be able to identify why you haven’t been able to achieve change. You can then develop a change plan to overcome barriers and move forward in a way that works for you.
What are the goals of client-centered change?
As noted above, when you work with a Health & Wellness Coach using a client-centered approach, you’ll be responsible for setting your goals. Your coach will not set goals for you. This is because this approach assumes that only you have the knowledge to set the right goals for yourself.
But many clients also enjoy the following benefits when they participate in client-centered coaching:
Decreased insecurity and guilt
Greater self-trust, especially when it comes to decision making
Increased capability for experiencing and expressing feelings
Another big part of the client-centered approach is helping you reach congruence. “Congruence” refers to the alignment of your self-concept with reality.
Your “self-concept” encompasses all the beliefs and ideas you have about yourself. It affects how you see yourself and how you interact with the world. And sometimes, your self-concept isn’t realistic. How you see yourself may be very different from how others see you.
Of course, everyone distorts reality to some degree. But if your self-concept conflicts with reality, you may encounter a lot of problems that prevent you from achieving goals. For example, an unrealistic negative self-concept may cause self-esteem and confidence issues. And you may not even be aware of the conflict.
To make lasting changes in your life, achieving congruence is critical. The client-centered approach helps you get there because it involves exploring whether your self-concept conflicts with reality. If needed, you can then take steps towards a more realistic self-concept.
As a result, you’ll become more self-aware, and also develop a healthier self-image and relationship with the world. This can help remove many of the barriers to achieving real change — which means you’ll be in a much better position to achieve your goals.
What’s needed for successful client-centered change?
The power of the client-centered approach doesn’t rely on specific coaching techniques. Instead, the most important aspect is the quality of your relationship with your Health & Wellness Coach.
Your relationship with your coach should be open, honest, and based on trust. You should feel safe and comfortable talking to your coach. After all, you’ll be sharing a lot of personal information with them!
You should also feel understood by your coach. When you’re trying to make health and wellness changes, it’s common to struggle with feelings of guilt. You may also be experiencing self-esteem issues or self-degrading thoughts. It’s important for your coach to be compassionate and show understanding for the difficulties you’re facing.
Without mutual positive feelings, your coaching isn’t likely to be beneficial. Below are some ways your coach will try to create a safe, understanding environment when working with you to achieve client-centered change.
Non-directiveness means that your coach won’t impose any particular agendas on you. They won’t tell you what to do. Or give you advice. Or guide you towards any specific decision.
Instead, they’ll let you make the decisions and lead the direction of the conversation.
In this way, your coach will be more like a collaborator rather than an authority figure. They may ask open-ended questions to encourage you to share, but you’ll always stay in control. It’ll be up to you to draw on your self-knowledge and arrive at your own conclusions. And at the end of the day, you’ll be responsible for defining your goals and what steps you need to take to achieve them.
The non-directive nature of the client-centered approach respects that it’s your journey — and that you know your own life better than anyone.
Unconditional positive regard
Having “unconditional positive regard” means your Health & Wellness Coach will be completely accepting of you. They’ll also accept your experiences and your emotions — both positive and negative. They won’t express disapproval or try to change you.
This doesn’t mean that your coach will approve of everything you say or do. But they will still try to convey to you that you’re valued, cared for, and understood.
Your coach will achieve this, in part, by maintaining a positive, accepting attitude. Such an attitude helps create a safe environment for you to express your true thoughts and feelings. It’s much harder to be open when you feel like you have to live up to someone’s standards. No one likes the risk of rejection!
So no matter what you’re feeling, you should always be truthful with your coach. That includes anger, fear, pride, confusion, or any other emotion. A Health & Wellness Coach will be there to listen and support you.
Empathy and Active Listening
Empathy is another key aspect of client-centered coaching.
Note that empathy is different from sympathy or pity. Empathy refers to the ability to understand and feel what another person is feeling. Your coach should exhibit empathy in your relationship. They should clearly communicate to you that they understand and appreciate your perspective.
Active listening is one way your Health & Wellness Coach can show empathy. Active listening often involves mirroring back your thoughts and feelings. This signals to you that your coach hears and understands you.
Hearing your thoughts and feelings out loud can also help you understand them better. You may realize after hearing them that you need to clarify them by talking through them a bit more.
Empathy is important in your relationship with your coach because it will help you feel safe with them. And as noted above, feeling safe will help you be as open and honest as possible. This free-flowing conversation is at the heart of the client-centered approach.
Genuineness is another key aspect of the client-centered approach. This means that your interactions with your Health & Wellness coach should be authentic.
This is in contrast to many other approaches. It’s common for coaches to hide behind a professional front. “Professional” to many means not expressing personal thoughts and feelings. It means hiding their true selves and taking a distanced approach to the relationship.
But honesty and transparency are important to the client-centered approach. That goes for you, and for your coach. Being genuine means your coach may share their own experiences as your relationship develops. They’ll share their thoughts and feelings with you, in a way that clearly signals that they’re communicating their inner experience. This genuineness can help build trust and strengthen your relationship.
It will also model healthy expression for you. Self-expression is a necessary part of the client-centered approach. If you have a hard time expressing your thoughts and feelings, seeing your coach express themselves in a genuine way can help you get comfortable with it.
Work with a Health & Wellness Coach on a Client-Centered Change Plan
Making lasting healthy lifestyle changes is rarely an easy task. Developing a client-centered change plan with a Health & Wellness Coach is no different.
This is because it’ll be up to you to talk through your thoughts and feelings. It’ll be up to you to resolve any issues. And it’ll be up to you to create a plan to reach your goals.
Your coach can’t do any of this work for you. Only you have the power to change your life.
Your coach will, however, create a safe environment and serve as a source of support, empathy, and acceptance.
And if you commit to the process, you’re certain to grow as a person and become more self-aware. You’ll walk away with more trust in yourself and your abilities. And you’ll be better equipped to make decisions for yourself in the future.
If you’re ready to gain the confidence and self-knowledge needed to finally reach your health and wellness goals, client-centered coaching can get you there.