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Everyone Benefits from a Health Coach

health coaching

“We talk about patient-centered care, but health coaches take it to a whole new level.” 

Dr. Karen Lawson

There are few people who have put more thought into the role of a health coach within healthcare than Dr. Karen Lawson and Theresa Nutt, co-directors of the Integrative Health and Wellbeing Program at the University of Minnesota.

They joined me on the Well Connected Twin Cities Podcast to paint a clear picture of how true patient-centered care is made accessible with health coaches as a part of the care team.

What makes a health coach successful?

Karen and Theresa have been answering that question since before there was an official health coach training program anywhere in the nation. Now co-directors, over 15 years after the first program was launched at the University of Minnesota in 2005, this duo continues to be integral in the growth and development to the coaching industry.

“(Health Coaching is) what I was always looking for in healthcare but never found in medicine. “

Dr. Karen Lawson

Dr. Karen Lawson and Theresa Nutt (pronounced like “put”) are deeply motivated to bring a new level of patient care to this nation. Together they use their wealth of experience and knowledge to create a future where everyone can benefit from using a health coach.

“I felt like the traditional nursing path wasn’t enough. . . I was watching how the system didn’t work”

Theresa Nutt

Motivated by her own journey through chronic pain, Theresa says that “having information doesn’t lead to behavior change.” Unlike any other modality, coaching is about shifting people to be empowered and in control of their own health. It’s this empowerment that leads to successful and sustainable changes in the health experience. 

What can be tricky, Theresa goes on, is that each individual is uniquely motivated and holds different values. Unlike a protocol for prescribing a medication, discovering each persons’ path to health takes time. Time that allopathic medicine doesn’t have. 

“We have to make space for exploration. For humanness”

Theresa Nutt

Can patient-centered care be achieved if practitioners are incentivized to prescribe medications or get paid to perform procedures? 

“We talk about patient-centered care, but health coaches take it to a whole new level. They don’t have an agenda.” Karen says, “The coach is there to help you achieve what you want to achieve, not tell you what you should achieve, and that’s a big difference.”

“We need to stop expecting physicians to be all things to all people, and coaches can help with that shift.”

Dr. Karen Lawson

Thanks to Karen and Theresa’s contribution to the coaching industry, there is a strong presence of qualified coaches found today right here in the Twin Cities. (Many of them can be found in our directory)

They suggest using a health coach like you might go to the dentist. Go for a check up, making sure you’re doing daily actions that promote health.

“Anyone at any time can benefit from a health coach, “ says Karen. But when seeking the right fit for you, consider the following for optimal results.

How to choose a health coach?

Find someone that fits your personality + style

Each coach has their own unique style. When searching for a health coach, take time to interview them, or take advantage of their “discovery call” options.

You’ll want to be sure you feel aligned with the coach, that you feel safe and heard with that coach to ensure the more satisfying results.

Look for certifications that you value, consider a nationally board certified health and wellness coach (NBHWC)

When you hire a coach, you will have a lot of options. Do you want a coach with training in many areas and many techniques to offer deep exploration around foundational beliefs? Or do you want a coach that specifically addresses one area very well, like say nutrition or body image?

Consider where they got their education, how many hours of study or years of experience do they have? Not all certifications are created equal. The NBHWC is a great way to identify that the coach has received training and education that align with national standards.

Create your lists of “must-have’s” and “preferred” before setting up an interview to guide your conversation.

Ask what they are doing to grow and deepen their own wellbeing

A quality coach recognizes that personal growth is a lifelong journey. Choose a coach who is demonstrating a lifestyle that you value by taking time to do their own self-work.

Everyone can benefit from a quality health coach. Hear more about how Karen and Theresa envision the future of healthcare with the integration of health coaches when you listen to the full episode


At Well Connected Twin Cities, we’re co-creating with local health + wellness practitioners to bring you the best resources that will inform and inspire you to take the next step in your wellness journey.

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