A Professional Interview of Dr. Michael Arloski by David Hunnicut
DH: How important is achieving results in coaching?
MA: I think results are very important. One of the nice things about health and wellness coaching is that we can often point to real biometric measures that have changed. In coaching, we can often look at these bio-markers and see a reduction in high-risk health behaviors. For example, one of our clients was diabetic and in poor overall health. He was obese. His blood pressure was 170/90. He had recently come down with gout. He did not exercise. His doctor indicated that he was headed into renal failure. He was maxing out his insulin pump supply every day. We provided this individual with comprehensive coaching that included working with a dietician and focusing on lasting behavioral change around eating. By the end of the coaching program, his blood pressure was down. He lost weight. He was no longer making mistakes like drinking a giant container of orange juice from concentrate every morning. He was no longer draining his insulin pump. His labs were under review and improving. In this case of coaching, we had concrete outcomes we could point to showing the results.
DH: On average, how long does it take before you can actually start seeing visible progress and tangible change in the people you are coaching?
MA: Quite often we will see initial change, but the tricky part is making that change last. Most of the research around behavioral change points towards a three month type of process to establish and solidify new habits. Many are exploring ways in which coaching can be delivered in a minimal amount of time and still have effective outcomes. But I think that is a real challenge, especially when you are trying to leverage coaching for a large population. As we tackle these challenges, we have to always measure what I call ‘whole person outcomes.’ But it is easy to only focus on one activity. For instance, I have seen attempts at computerized coaching that will focus on getting the person to walk more. The computer program appeared to get them to walk more during the time that they were tested, but to me that is not a very good study because it does not look at the big picture—at the person’s whole health. So in this instance, how much real behavioral change happened? How much of that is going to last? Often we are not really evaluating the whole picture.
DH: There is a lot of concern among executives and wellness leaders about coaching and ROI. Is coaching cost effective for an organization?
MA: I can just say yes it is. That is easy to say. Putting the proof behind it is what we really need to do, and we are accomplishing this more and more every day. We are continuously encouraging successful companies to share their data with the world. I was recently at the National Wellness Conference talking about results and ROI in one of my sessions. A woman in the front row shared how her company was saving amazing amounts of money, and it was all attributed to their wellness coaching program. We asked if that has been published—‘can we get our hands on it?’ She said no, it was all internal. We asked her to get it out there. Share it! We really want to hear from companies that are doing well.
There has also been tremendous growth in wellness coaching within the disease management and EAP fields. There is clearly evidence in the marketplace that coaching is working and the demand is growing. I think we must also catch up with academic studies so we can clearly point to outcomes and show cost effectiveness. The good news is that these are starting to come in; we are starting to see them. In fact, I am one of the leadership team members for the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches. If you go out to their website— www.NCCHWC.org —you can view a research section that is continuously updated by some of the best academic researchers in the country. These folks are doing a great job assembling important information, including the research that makes it to publication. Although it is a small field, it is growing and the results are really encouraging. Lastly, we are starting to see more academic institutions teaching wellness coaching as part of their curriculum. As that happens, we will see more compelling research,and know more answers.
Coach Toria: “WellFit Affordable Health Solutions LLC. specializes in wellness coaching for individuals and organizations. Our focus is to help every individual make positive behavioral change and enjoy a longer, healthier quality of life. Incorporating wellness coaching into a work site wellness program is an effective method of helping employees to make long-term change that will impact the lives of families, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and job satisfaction. Creating a culture of wellness at work and home can help companies improve bottom-line profits and enhance their ability to compete in a global marketplace by reducing benefit claims and strengthening their most valuable asset ~ HEALTHY PEOPLE!