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Ep 127 Integrative Health Coaching: Transforming Individuals and Systems with Karen Lawson

Interview with Dr. Karen Lawson about the importance of integrative health and wellness coaching for individuals, educational programming, and the conventional healthcare system.

Topics of Discussion:
-Interface between health coaching and integrative care
-Taking ownership of one’s own wellness through health coaching
-Importance and growth of integrative health coaching in the future of healthcare

Karen Lawson, MD, ABIHM, NBC-HWC, is the founder and CEO of IHWC Productions, a consulting company that works with programs and individuals to advance and expand training in Integrative Health Coaching and Holistic Healthcare.

She served as the founder and Director of Integrative Health Coaching at the University of Minnesota from 2005-2022. She is a physician, board-certified in Integrative and Holistic Medicine; the 2004-5 Past-President of the American Holistic Medical Association, and a founding Diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. Dr. Karen is a founding board member of the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching ( ).

A published author and researcher, she speaks nationally to diverse audiences on the power of holistic health care practices and integrative health coaching. Karen is a dancer at heart, has had a 30-year yoga practice, and has completed a 230 hour yoga teacher training.

Website: IHWC Productions
Instagram: Karen Lawson / IHWC Productions
LinkedIn: Karen Lawson / IHWC Productions
Facebook: Karen Lawson / IHWC Productions


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Ep 127 Integrative Health Coaching: Transforming Individuals and Systems with Karen Lawson

[00:00:00] Cynthia: You are listening to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. I’m your host, Cynthia Shockley, and I’m here to learn alongside you through meaningful conversations with health and wellness practitioners. This is your time to experience some mindset shifts, learn practical tips, and get excited about what is possible.

[00:00:22] We want you to own the power of choice in your personal well being journey. Let’s discover what’s possible right here in our Twin Cities community.

[00:00:33] Hello, and welcome to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. I’m your host, Cynthia Shockley, and today we get to speak with the amazing Karen Lawson. She is joining us to discuss the field of integrative health coaching, its history, its developments, and its future. She’ll also share her journey. From neuroscience researcher to medical doctor to director of University of Minnesota’s Integrative Health Coaching Program to producer of health coaching programs around the world, Karen Lawson is the founder and CEO of IHWC Productions, a consulting company that works with programs and individuals to integrative health coaching and holistic health care.

[00:01:18] She served as the founder and director Of integrative health coaching at the University of Minnesota from 2005 to 2022. She is a physician board certified in integrative and holistic medicine. The 2004 to 2005, past president of the American Holistic Medical Association and a founding diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine.

[00:01:41] Dr. Karen is a founding board member of the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. A published author and researcher, she speaks nationally to diverse audiences on the power of holistic health practices, and integrative health coaching.

[00:01:56] Karen is a dancer at heart, has had a 30 year yoga practice, and has completed a 230 hour yoga teacher training.

[00:02:05] And now I am so honored and excited to introduce Karen Lawson, who’s here with us on this episode. So hello, Karen.

[00:02:16] Karen: Hi. Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

[00:02:18] Cynthia: Yes, I’m so glad that we can just sit down and talk about Something we’re both really passionate about and just to kick us off, I’d love to hear a rose and a thorn going on in life right now.

[00:02:36] So something that’s been bringing you joy, but also something that’s maybe been a bit of a pain for you lately.

[00:02:42] Karen: One kind of leads into the other as all things are connected, right? So I think one of the roses right now is just I’ve been self employed running my own business this calendar year.

[00:02:52] And the freedom that’s given me to really think about some of the big things that I want to do. My husband and I have done two 5, 000 mile road trips this year, which was very exciting. And we’re planning for 2024. So right now we’re actively planning. On a month long biking trip in Europe.

[00:03:09] And so the planning and excitement of that and nailing it down is bringing a lot of sparkle to my evenings. So that’s really fun. We’re looking to be, we’re hoping to be bicycling from Prague to Budapest. So that will be quite the trip. And the thorn. Interesting that flexibility allows me to also be of help to friends and colleagues and things that when I was working full time, I didn’t always have the flexibility to do the thorn piece of that as I seem to have a lot of friends, colleagues, me, everybody just going through a lot of things falling apart, things needing to be replaced.

[00:03:45] hip replacements, knee replacements. I just had cataract surgery. My husband’s going to have hearing surgery. I’m helping a friend out that’s going through cancer treatment right now. So just a lot of health challenges in the world in my immediate circle. Sad that everybody’s having to face them and it is that part of life and I’m really joyful that I have the flexibility in my life to be able to be there and respond to as a support from others, as well as for myself, but I went through things.

[00:04:13] Cynthia: Yeah, I love how you. up of just it’s all connected, right? So with the rose comes the thorn and with the thorn comes the rose. And so just being able to see the big picture of it all. I know Karen, I knew about. the integrative health coaching world because of you. Back when I was pre med at UCLA, I was programming the annual student conference on integrative medicine.

[00:04:42] And our sponsor was like, Hey, we’re going to get Karen Lawson out here to be our keynote speaker. And so I had to introduce Karen on stage. So I’m like, okay, I better study up who this person is. And I just, Was enthralled with the content that I found on what integrative health coaching is. And I know you started your professional journey as a medical doctor.

[00:05:08] And I love just the development of your journey. Do you mind sharing how you crossed over into the health coaching space?

[00:05:18] Karen: Like, how did a nice girl like you end up in a place like this? Yeah. Yeah, I did start, actually, I started as a medical research scientist. I was a, I studied in neuropharmacology and was doing bench research got tired of working on animals and thought I need to work on humans.

[00:05:33] So I thought, okay, I got to go to medical school. And by that point the neuro part, I was really fascinated about the brain and the mind. And then I got into medical school and discovered a system that was like. We have everything siloized into pieces, right? And it was like, things aren’t very well connected.

[00:05:49] And I was very challenged by that because I was really, I was starting to study yoga. I was a dancer. I was very much about how things are all connected. And so the medical system as it existed, in the 80s was very confusing to me. So I went to the only people that I could see that really had a holistic perspective of the world.

[00:06:08] And that at that point in time was the last living generation of general practitioners. So they were the country docs and the docs out there that, knew three generations of the family and did deliveries and did surgeries and did home visits. And they influenced me to then, okay, do family medicine because that was the closest thing.

[00:06:27] That was on the heels of the old GP did family medicine started in practice and was actually my first practice was here in the twin cities in the early nineties. And I found myself in a system being frustrated that the things that I wanted to have time to talk to people about, I didn’t have time to talk to people about the goal was productivity, how many visits a day, all of that kind of thing.

[00:06:50] My medical director said, if you keep going as good as you are soon, you can see 50 patients a day. And I thought that is not my goal. So that was not a good carrot for me. And I found myself having the same conversations with people over and over again, mostly about. their health behaviors, choices that they were making to live or not live a very full, happy life.

[00:07:10] And they’d go away and they’d come back six weeks or three months later and they’d have the same conversation over and over again. So I was very frustrated. So I thought, alright, there’s got to be a system out there that’s doing things differently, right? So while I was still in medicine, I started exploring other systems of healthcare.

[00:07:26] And I looked at traditional Chinese medicine, I looked at Ayurvedic medicine, I studied very seriously homeopathic medicine for two years I made the transition from primary care into the emergency room, because one, that gave me more time to explore other things, but secondly, because in the emergency room, we weren’t faking anybody out, giving them the impression that we were actually going to do any preventative care, we were actually just putting them together when they came in crisis, I’m like, Okay, we’re doing what we’re saying we’re doing, right?

[00:07:55] And that really led me into discovering the world of holistic and integrative health care. I didn’t know anything about coaching at that point in time. So my transition really was into that holistic health care realm. I made the leap from kind of conventional medicine, if you will, into holistic medicine later more known as integrative medicine in the mid 90s.

[00:08:16] Did a startup, did a couple of startups actually, and in one of those in the late 90s, I was challenged to put together an interdisciplinary large integrative healthcare team at a hospital system. And so I had about 25 providers, inpatient and outpatient. We did everything from I did holistic medicine consults, but we had nutritionist and chiropractors and massage therapist and music therapy and, Reiki, all kinds of stuff.

[00:08:46] But I, and so I thought, Oh, good. I’ve made a transition to another system of healing. Things are going to be different here. And there are a lot of really wonderful things that I still really support about that and want. But one of the things that fascinated me was I watched my providers, particularly the more.

[00:09:01] accepted and entrenched providers like the chiropractors having the same situation happen as it did when I was in medicine which is people came in they got something done to them or they were told what they needed to do and then they left and then they had no idea how to do it and they didn’t do it.

[00:09:19] And they’d come back this time, often more frequently every three weeks, every four weeks and get told the same thing over and over again. And some of these people had been clients or patients for over a decade. And I was watching this pattern going, something is missing in this equation, right? We’re not doing something right.

[00:09:36] So at that point in time, I had a good friend and a colleague who was in the integrative medicine realm, who her background was in nursing. And she had been an early pioneer in coaching, just general coaching, more life coaching, executive coaching. It really wasn’t in the healthcare world yet. And so I reached out to her.

[00:09:55] She had a practice and a school in San Francisco. And I said, this is what I’m observing in healthcare. Do you think coaching could help? And she said, I do. And I said, would you come teach me and my nurse practitioner? How to bring coaching into a healthcare arena. And she was like, okay. So she moved. I was in Michigan at the time.

[00:10:14] She moved, lived with me for three months. And and taught myself and my nurse practitioner nurse coach Mary. So she became my first nurse health coach in 2000. This was mostly a fee for service practice. This was before insurance was really getting on board much, and the practitioners were afraid to refer to the coach because they thought it would be competitive with their practice, and because many of them perceived themselves as being coaches themselves.

[00:10:40] Even though they really didn’t know anything about or understand coaching. We had to do a little enticement experiment. One, we challenged all of the providers to pick their most difficult, most entrenched client or clients that had not been able to make any change, whether that had been in diabetic management, smoking cessation, weight loss, relationship issues, just whatever they were entrenched in.

[00:11:04] And we said, we’ll provide free coaching with Nurse Mary for three months. Send us your toughest. So they did. They picked out people. This was before electronic medical records and they picked out people. Some of them that had charts that were 12 or 15 inches thick at the nurse coach, Mary, bless her heart.

[00:11:21] She’s still in Michigan. I’m still in touch with her. And she was a game changer for me. And she very patiently and very determinedly worked with everybody that was sent to her. And in four to six weeks, we were watching people make changes that they had never made in their whole life. Practitioners were going.

[00:11:38] Wow. So what is it exactly that you do? And they finally, some of them actually went and got coached. Because that really is the best way to understand the process. And they really realized that the coach wasn’t about replacing or competing with them, but the coach really allowed them as professionals to do what they do best, to use their expertise.

[00:12:01] To teach, to educate, to help put a care plan together, to do a therapy on somebody, and give somebody their best professional guidance, but then send them down the hall to Nurse Coach Mary to say, here, help Mr. Smith do this, right? And then You know, as the coach took over by saying, Mr. Smith, what do you really want to do?

[00:12:20] And then it became about the client leading themselves. So that was a huge discovery for me. And it really was the interface between integrative medicine and health coaching. And I really realized that health coaching in many ways could be that bridge because we need health coaching and conventional health care.

[00:12:37] And we need health coaching and integrative health care. And if coaches understand integrative care, they can Introduce that into the halls of conventional medicine, right? So it’s like sneaking a little decoy. I ended up, I left Michigan long other story for another time.

[00:12:53] But I came to Minnesota in 2002 on an NIH educational grant to actually teach integrative healthcare to medical students. And in that process, Many conversations with the director of the center where I worked said, what about this health coaching thing that you did back there that you talked about?

[00:13:12] Do you think this is a way we can change American conventional health care? And I said, yes. And she said there aren’t any. So somebody has to train them, right? And so threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to develop it. Design, develop, and lead a program in teaching health coaching.

[00:13:30] And we took a year to do that with a six person interprofessional team and launched that program at University of Minnesota in 2005. And that was the first academic program in integrative health care in the country of which you are a graduate.

[00:13:45] Cynthia: Yeah. Oh gosh. What? What a journey and I just hear that theme of you noticing something missing and going out and trying to find what is it?

[00:13:59] What’s that missing piece? What’s that missing piece? And finally getting to that point where, okay, so coaching was that. That missing piece to people taking ownership of their health people taking action and not just being told what to do and then not doing it.

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[00:15:17] Cynthia: Right?

[00:15:17] So can you explain for those who aren’t familiar with health coaching?

[00:15:22] Like you said, getting coached is the best way to learn, but just. An overview of how health coaches do help people develop that ownership of their health and well being.

[00:15:33] Karen: Yeah. Yeah. It’s so important. And I’ll say just in case anybody that’s listening has a perception of coaching, many of us, that word is attached with lots of other things, traumatic experiences when we were in junior high school and all of those kinds of things.

[00:15:48] That in many ways, I wish we had another word for it. because it’s associated with so many other things. And if you want to think about coaching in a way that most people conventionally know about it, like from athletic coaching, really the best comparison would be inner life of tennis, inner life of golf coaching, where it’s all about getting in touch with the uniqueness that is you and finding out how to bring your strengths out to make your game better.

[00:16:14] In this case, The game is your health and

[00:16:16] being right? And so with coaching, it’s all about the clients. What are their values? What are their priorities? What is it that they would like to change or evolve in their life? And because well being really encompasses is. The full scope of life that could be in something that people would really consider a health care issue, right?

[00:16:39] A diagnosis that they have a diet issue, an exercise issue, a sleep issue. But really in integrative health coaching, we, train our clients, our students and our practitioners to think about it’s everything. It’s our environment. It’s our relationships. It’s, it’s our spirituality.

[00:16:57] And so there really is. No realm, I don’t think of human experience that’s off the table for health coaches. They’re not there to be content area experts in any particular thing. Say you’re somebody that really would like to make some dietary changes for one reason or another. The health coach is not going to give you a prescribed diet, even though the health coach has been trained to have a pretty good idea what about a generally healthy diet would be.

[00:17:23] But the health coach might even suggest you work with a nutritionist. And get a diet plan that works for the two of you from the nutritionist, then the health coach will help you figure out, okay, how are we going to put this plan into action? How are you going to remove the barriers that are getting in your way?

[00:17:39] The old habits of beliefs and behaviors that just are the stumbling blocks for us. What are the resources and support you need? The health coach is there with you. Side by side, and I always picture the health coaches being like just off the shoulder of the client, they’re just slightly behind them.

[00:17:57] They’ve been on this path, they’re pursuing their own health and well being, they understand the challenges we all have as contemporary human beings, they’re there to support you, not enable you, but to keep you moving forward. That’s the best way that I would think about them and they can be practicing in many different settings with many different client populations, so sometimes they’re in healthcare, other times they’re in private practice or they’re at your gym or they’re at your school or your place of business. A little bit depends too on the environment and setting in which you see the coach.

[00:18:29] Cynthia: Yeah, that is definitely something I’m noticing.

[00:18:33] Since even starting the health coaching master’s program at the U, it was, it’s been expanding, right? The field’s been expanding. There are just more and more ways that health and well being coaching is starting to infuse into society, which is really exciting. And after many years of making your mark at University of Minnesota’s Integrative Health and Well Being Coaching Program as the director, you eventually did decide recently to start your own business, Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching Productions, IHWC.

[00:19:11] And I would love to hear, what pulled you in that direction what inspired you to start this new venture?

[00:19:21] Karen: Yeah. I’m sure, I’d been at the university for 20 years and I had done the integrative health coaching for 17 of those. And we had launched both the graduate certificate program In 2005 and the master’s program in 2014.

[00:19:35] So they were both creative ventures and big accomplishments that I was proud of. And I love my alumni and the people that I know out there in the world. I feel like I’ve helped go out there and make a difference. And. It really was, I think at a time of maturity of the program, like when your kid hits their senior year in high school,

[00:19:57] Cynthia: it’s

[00:19:57] Karen: It’s just time for me to step away, let that move on to whatever its next version it needs to be as it evolves and matures and to open things back up.

[00:20:10] To a realm of a bit more creativity and freedom for me. I mentioned in our Rose and Thorn conversation about how I’ve been very grateful for the flexibility I’ve had being self employed to be able to respond to the things that life is.

[00:20:25] And I’m excited to help other people in the creation and the creativity phase of new program design, program improvement, things like that. And to assemble and put in place well trained faculty teams to open up opportunities for younger providers to come in to teach, and then to be able to get everything working and then hand it off and move on to the next creative project.

[00:20:52] So that’s what inspired me, the IHWC Productions title, which is a little strange, and people are like, what’s that, right? I was actually walking the Camino last fall this time, looking for inspiration. And. I read an article, an interview with a Hollywood producer that somebody asked him, what does a producer actually do, right?

[00:21:12] And he described all of the different roles of the producer. And I’m like that’s what I want to do, but not movies. I want to do that. for health coaching educational programs. And so I’m like, I’m going to be a producer of educational programs. That’s confused a lot of people, but it’s fun and confusion leads to questions, which usually leads to more dialogue, which leads to better understanding.

[00:21:31] So it’s all good. But yeah, so I launched that the first of the year this year. And it’s been very it’s been a huge learning curve for me. I didn’t necessarily think I’d be. needing to learn to, have a website and do social media and do all of those do market myself and look at what am I, what projects I’m going to be doing six months down the road.

[00:21:49] But it’s reinvigorated me. It’s a, it’s people are like, some people will be like, congratulations on your retirement from you. And I’m like, no, there was no retirement. There was just a move and a refirement. So I’m refiring myself with.

[00:22:01] Cynthia: Oh man, I love it. What are some of the projects that you maybe have worked on, have been working on that you’re excited about?

[00:22:13] I’d love to hear just. What’s been cooking with IHWC?

[00:22:18] Karen: I’m doing one or two speaking engagements a month to continue to try to spread the word. And I’m still quite busy on the, I’m a founding board member of the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching and so continue to serve in a voluntary capacity.

[00:22:31] Past the on that, which takes a little bit of time. But from a project standpoint with IHWC Productions, I’ve really had two main projects that I’m working on right now. One is with Northwestern Health Sciences University who had a program that they had just launched that really Was not the program they wanted it to be and so have been working with them since January to kind of restructure their curriculum, make things more integrative, make things more graduate level education bring, trained and committed faculty members on board and.

[00:23:04] really get that to be a well oiled, well running machine. So I’ve been I’m serving as the interim program director for that program for probably another six months or so while I get ready to transition. So that’s been really exciting because the colleagues at Northwest Health Sciences are all friends and colleagues I’ve worked with in other capacities for 20 years.

[00:23:23] So that’s been really delightful and it’s. Right here in my own backyard the other project is also very exciting, very different. I’ve been partnering with University of Houston to develop a a certificate, basically a graduate certificate, health coaching program from the ground up. So getting to start totally from scratch and to say what would I design now compared to what I designed?

[00:23:44] And, 2004 is really fun. And also have been able to bring in team members to that and address some things that we didn’t think to address five or 10 years ago. And working on that program, which we are planning on launching that program nationally in February of this year.

[00:24:02] So that’s exciting. And actually the newest thing on the plate I’m working on is I really like to expand my interactions internationally. I’ve had the pleasure of doing some teaching in Canada and Iceland and Ireland, but I’d like to do more and do more consistently. So I actually have a colleague who runs an academy for coaching excellence in Prague.

[00:24:23] And he and I are brainstorming and planning on me, hopefully doing a, One day, like a eight hour workshop for people who are more like life coaches, executive coaches to have them learn about what is. Health and wellness coaching and to do that in Prague in June of 24. So I just sent a draft of my program proposal to him yesterday.

[00:24:46] So that’s hot off the presses. So very excited about that. Yeah.

[00:24:50] Cynthia: Yeah. Yeah. Cause I have talked to people in different areas of coaching like career coaches or finance coaches, lifestyle coaches who. Say that ultimately in order for people to make progress in these areas like their career or their finances or whatever it is Usually health has to be addressed, I’m like that’s just that we’re really Yeah, like health is just your body and your mind functioning optimally and if you want success that needs to be taken care of So I love that’s something that’ll be accessible for other coaches in the field who just want to add that knowledge to their database as they’re working.

[00:25:30] And I know you’ve always been, or, not always, but for a long time now, been this advocate for integrative health coaching and making sure that’s a part of the programming that you’re creating. And you did mention that having health coaches know a little bit about everything. I always joke that I have a master of none because I know a little bit about everything and a lot about coaching, but a little about everything else.

[00:25:57] But why do you feel like integrative health coaching is so important and necessary for the future of healthcare?

[00:26:09] Karen: I think that for too long in America, I can’t necessarily yet speak for the rest of the world, although I’ve watched the influence of Western medicine in many places we’ve reduced the idea of health to mostly the physical.

[00:26:25] When we’ve expanded it to the mental and sometimes the emotional, we still do that through a lens or a perspective of like human bodies are a machine. And it’s because there’s biochemical reasons from the body why the brain is doing this and that’s what’s given us the emotions. It’s very reductionistic still in its thinking.

[00:26:46] And I think the way that some programs conceptualize. Health coaching still hold that lens. Of the human being a essentially a very complicated machine. Many health coaching programs focus strongly on diet, exercise, smoking cessation sleep stress management.

[00:27:09] Those are the big five. And there’s so much more. And if we think about humans as really spiritual beings having a human experience for so much more than the biochemical bags of cells in our body. And I think as coaches, if we have a much broader understanding of the human experience that has to include, it’s, Okay.

[00:27:33] Even the VA, the largest health system in the country, which I’ve done work with for seven years, talks about whole person health. And at least that’s moving us in the right direction. So it acknowledges the environment, the relationships, the the the spiritual drive, meaning and purpose all of those things that are bigger than just health as we think about it in the conventional setting.

[00:27:53] And I think that many of us as consumers, Who have been raised with conventional health care have been raised with the same limited lens that the providers were trained with. And so people don’t really look at their health through that interconnected lens of, how I feel about myself and my relationship with my children.

[00:28:15] probably impacts how my physical body feels when I go to sleep at night or why I do or don’t want to exercise or what foods I’m craving, right? We can’t separate those things out. And I think that health coaches are a non Threatening professional that can really invite individuals to think about themselves in a much broader capacity thinking about their whole self well being.

[00:28:42] And if we get individuals taking charge of their own health that think about themselves like that. They’re going to have different expectations of their physicians and their health care system, right? So then we start putting some pressure because I found that changing medicine one doctor at a time is really not going to be fast enough in my lifetime.

[00:29:00] So I really think that the way into greater health and wellbeing is through the individual, the family, and the community. And getting people to demand whole person health. And when they do it, the healthcare system will have to respond. And I think coaches can be a real inciting factor in making that happen.

[00:29:19] And I think in order to address all of those things, because in healthcare we have pills, we have surgeries and we have some invasive interventions. Those are kind of our tools in conventional medicine. It’s very limiting. Whereas if a coach understands other systems and other perspectives to healthcare and knows other therapeutic approaches out there, they can introduce the ideas of there’s so much more.

[00:29:46] Therapeutically available that we can do everything from, energy work and remedies to mind body practices to acupuncture to manipulative therapies. There’s so much right. And I think that coaches can even. Be the force that helps introduce the possibility of those things to clients.

[00:30:03] So that’s why I’m adamant that my coaches will be integrative health coaches.

[00:30:08] Cynthia: Yeah. And well connected, I think is very much in line with that belief system, which is why we want to have more integrative providers known featured interacting with each other, interacting with community. Cause there are just so many options out there.

[00:30:25] So it’s nice to. know that with an integrative health coach, you have that person who can validate your choices, introduce new ideas just be that in between as you explore some options.

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[00:31:26] Cynthia: And

[00:31:27] gosh, it’s just so wild to think that it was. About eight years ago that I even discovered that this was even

[00:31:34] Karen: one of my best catches Cynthia.

[00:31:36] Cynthia: Yeah I just I was like, who’s this Karen Lawson and I was like, who’s what’s health coaching? What is this? And I had no idea I thought being a medical doctor was the only way I could potentially make that kind of impact for someone and hearing that, here you are this recovering physician, as you call yourself and being like, wait, there’s another way.

[00:31:58] I know in just that those eight years, there’s been such a shift in how many people know about health coaching, where it’s showing up in the world. And I’m sure for you too, in the last 20 years, there’s been such a big shift. I feel like you’re in this really. Amazing space like at the top of the mountain, you’ve really been a trailblazer and so from your viewpoint with kind of your fingers in all these pots and knowing about the academic system and, some corporate spaces and just all the different professionals, what do you see for the future growth and impact of integrative health and well being coaching?

[00:32:36] Karen: Yeah, that’s a good question. I, and I vacillate between trying to be and being overly optimistic and painfully realistic, right? I have to admit, 30 years ago, I thought that our current healthcare system was in such bad shape, it would just be collapsed by now. And so I’m finding it’s Worse shape, but it’s still standing.

[00:32:54] So that’s a little disappointing sometimes. So time frames are a little hard to predict, but I do think that currently when we started board certifying we started approving programs in 2016 so that graduates could take a board exam and we started board certifying, 2017. Now that’s health coaches, health and wellness coaches.

[00:33:15] No guidelines as to that being integrative or not, right? It’s just a baseline for everybody. And since that time in 2017, so we’re now at what, seven years we are just over 9, 000 nationally board certified health coaches in the U S. So it’s a curve that continues to go upward steeply, which is great.

[00:33:35] I think our real goal is we would love to be sitting at. 20, 000 coaches. Even by the end of 2025. So we’re growing the field rapidly. I think we’re also in the place where we’re really trying to educate leaders in health care, and that includes administrators of systems. Third party payers, Medicare, Medicaid about health coaching, the benefit of health coaching, the cost savings of health coaching to really try to bring it in a much more meaningful integrated way into the existing healthcare system.

[00:34:09] Currently, most. Individuals that get health coaching either get it through employee benefits, it’s one of their benefits they get through their insurance coverage, right? They may get it at a facility like they belong to a gym, so they get health coaching and usually pay something else for it through their gym.

[00:34:27] Or they’re paying out of pocket. Privately to connect with the health coach and I think the word is spreading more and more people are becoming aware of it, but it would be really great. I would love to in my happy, optimistic fantasy place be able to say, in 5 years, I would love that the expectation would be any primary care doctor’s office that you walk into was We have a health coach on staff, any sizable integrative health care practice, chiropractic office traditional Chinese medical office would have a health coach on staff mental health services where we have made huge strides in the last.

[00:35:05] five to seven years with the role of health coaching and mental health. Because it can often be a much less scary doorway for individuals to get healthcare with, for mental or emotional issues. And the health coach can sometimes then help facilitate I can work with you on this. And it would be really great for you to see a therapist on this and vice versa.

[00:35:24] So I think having a health coaches is standard part of all interdisciplinary mental health provider places will really become. The the expectation or the standard of practice in the community. So I think it’s, we’re at a place now that it’s really about infiltration of propagation.

[00:35:42] We’ve got it started and we, now we need to infiltrate, grow the numbers. I remember having a conversation with the CDC. As a board member, I don’t know, probably six or seven years ago they have a diabetes prevention program, right? And it was mostly an educational program, a group thing.

[00:35:59] People came and they learned the stuff, but it really wasn’t a successful behavior change program. So they had conversations with the national board about the coaching model and they loved what they heard. And they said if we were going to. Higher coaches to do this. We would need to have 300, 000 coaches to start in January.

[00:36:18] That’s a lot more than the 9000 that we’ve board certified. So there has to be these kind of compromises. Or how do we bring coaching skills and practices? into places in lots of different ways, even where we can’t have a full time board certified health coach there. So the DPP program, in partnership with the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching, that program has been redesigned and the people who are facilitators for it get training and coaching skills, even though they aren’t becoming board certified coaches themselves.

[00:36:50] I’ve taught coaching skills to medical students and that’s happening at many places around the country. So I think bringing coaching skills and perspectives into all other kinds of health care professionals and as well as educating those themselves about what health coaching is so that they know how and when to make a referral, how to partner with and work with coaches.

[00:37:14] I think it’s got to be a both end. I think we have to have. All of those things happening. And of course the research in the area is growing and growing rapidly, also going up exponentially. And we’re trying to keep paces with that, have a huge overview of research being compiled by the board right now.

[00:37:31] And that will be updated and published hopefully within this next 12 months. And so we need that data in order to be able to have conversations sometimes with the head of. Health providing organizations with the head of third party payers. And so we’re not at the top of the mountain yet. We’re still working our we’re still what serpentine, we’re still going back and forth on that winding road toward a peak in the the clouds.

[00:37:58] But, and I do want to say, because you’ve emphasized it, Cynthia, that as consumers, for those of you who are consumers that are listening that. It is important to know that when people at a minimum, I would say, if you’re going to see a health coach, you want to see somebody that is a nationally board certified health and wellness coach and.

[00:38:15] All nationally board certified health and wellness coaches are not created the same because that is really a minimal bar for safety and I would say that 85 percent ish of the programs that teach people health coaching do not teach integrative health coaching. So if that’s important to you, you need to ask, where did you train? What’s your perspective? How do you practice? Because there are a number of programs besides the university and besides Northwest health sciences in the country that really do focus on integrative health and wellness coaching, Duke Vanderbilt CIIS in California there’s probably 10 or 12 in the country out of about 115 approved programs.

[00:38:57] So as a consumer ask. Have a conversation, find out what a provider’s perspective is, what their experience is, what their training’s been, so that you can really find somebody that’s going to meet your needs and desired goals for what you want to get out of working with a health coach.

[00:39:14] Cynthia: And I’ll add to that, if the person you’re talking to is that’s not my jam, or, I really focus on specifically this type of coaching, they probably have a referral or someone that they know in their network.

[00:39:27] So feel free to ask them that as well. And just keep connecting those dots and making sure that you’re with them. The person that’s got the same values as you, that’s going to work with you in the way that you want. You really deserve the care that the best suits you.

[00:39:44] Karen: And the good news is that whether we like it or not, since COVID everything virtual has gotten more and more accepted and accessible.

[00:39:51] And so because coaches are not licensed, because we are not pursued that. We don’t really want it. We are not restricted. at being able to work with people virtually across state lines. So you can find a coach that you might like, might be here locally, wherever you are, but could be in another time zone.

[00:40:09] Because the large majority of coaching, not all, but the large majority of it these days is happening on Zoom. That does give us some freedom. And so you can explore broadly to find somebody that’s really a good fit for you.

[00:40:21] Cynthia: Yeah. And if you are looking, I know there’s the national board for health and wellness coaching their website.

[00:40:28] They started up a directory recently. The coaches are trickling in and adding their information. I still need to do mine. All right, get

[00:40:36] Karen: on it, Cindy. I did mine last night.

[00:40:38] Cynthia: Okay. Oh Karen, we’ve covered a lot in this conversation. But if there was one takeaway that listeners left this conversation with, what would you hope that it would be?

[00:40:50] Karen: That you truly are a spiritual being, having a human experience and that you deserve to support and advance your own well being in every aspect of your experience here on this planet and to have somebody to support you to do it because nobody can do it by themselves. We all need help. Minnesotans.

[00:41:11] here in Minnesota. We’re strong, sturdy, self supportive kind of people and don’t like to ask for help. And that just remember that it’s a strength to to ask for help and find the resources that you need and to be willing to take charge and do the work. It’s not a weakness to ask for help.

[00:41:26] We all deserve a coach.

[00:41:28] Cynthia: Exactly. And if you’re interested in learning more about Karen, about her work, maybe for a collaboration, even her website and information will be in the show notes along with her LinkedIn, her professional Facebook. So stay connected with her, reach out with any questions.

[00:41:48] And I’m just so grateful, Karen, that you were able to just share your wisdom and share, even though you’re not at the top of the mountain quite yet, you’re higher than most. people so you can tell us what’s going on.

[00:41:59] Karen: Happy to do it. It was a pleasure as always, Cynthia.

[00:42:03] Cynthia: Thank you so much for listening to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. Did you learn something new? Did you feel that spark of hope and excitement for what is possible? Because so much is possible. Tell us about it in a review on Apple podcast. Not only would we absolutely love hearing from you, but these reviews help our ratings and help other curious minds like you find this resource.

[00:42:28] We are always better together. Thank you again and see you next time.


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