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What is health coaching?

The benefits of working with a Prescription for Wellness health coach

We live in a world that is, to some extent, engineered against making healthy choices. Many of us want to be healthy, live long, and be well, but the healthy choice is not always the easy one. We are constantly being pushed toward processed and packaged foods, modern conveniences are making it easier than ever to move less and less, and our levels of stress and anxiety are rising across all age groups.[i],[ii],[iii] Even worse, figuring out what to believe about improving our health is growing increasingly difficult.

The good news is that more and more people are making their health and wellness a priority. As a result, health coaching is becoming an increasingly popular tool for making positive changes. Health and wellness coaching has been shown to encourage healthy behaviors, improve quality of life, increase physical activity levels, manage weight, eat right, reduce stress, and more.[iv],[v],[vi] If you’re looking to change your lifestyle habits, working with a Prescription for Wellness health coach might be a great place to start. Whether you’ve already considered working with a coach or are just curious about how coaching programs work, we have you covered.

Who are Prescription for Wellness health coaches?

Prescription for Wellness health coaches play an important role in your health care team. They will support you in achieving your health and wellness goals no matter how big or small. Many people think of their coach as a guide, expert, partner, and motivator.

Prescription for Wellness health coaches come from all kinds of professional backgrounds, including exercise physiologists, dietitians, public health specialists, and nurses.[vii] Health coaches can support clients in losing weight, improving nutrition, quitting smoking, being active, dealing with stress, managing chronic conditions, and more.[viii] 

How does health coaching work?

Health coaching encourages clients to maximize their potential for change with a strength-based approach. Your Prescription for Wellness health coach actively engages you in the process and supports your journey toward lasting behavioral changes.[ix] Your coach won’t tell you what to do. Instead, he or she will meet you where you are and prompt you to consider the steps that would help at this point in your journey.

One of the first things you’ll do with your coach is discuss your wellness vision to lay out your long-term goals. From there, you’ll most likely discuss your current health, motivations for making a change, past successes, strengths, and values. Finally, you and your coach will personalize a plan that fits your day-to-day routine and formalize how to stick to it.[x]

What health coaching options are available?

Prescription for Wellness health coaching isn’t one size fits all. Some people opt for structured programs that focus on a specific behavior change, while others customize an approach based on areas of interest and personal goals.

No matter your learning style, there is something for you. Health coaching programs come over the phone, on mobile apps, in workbooks, and in group settings. You can decide which style best fits your lifestyle—or opt for a combination of a few of them. Your coach will discuss your options with you to help you decide what will work best given your goals.

Is health coaching for me?

Coaching is for anyone looking to make improvements in their health and wellness as well as for those who feel like they are on track and want to keep a good thing going. Clients speak positively of the supportive relationship they develop with their coaches. Many clients focus on how grateful they are to have someone with whom to celebrate their accomplishments.[xi] If you have been thinking about making changes to your lifestyle but are unsure where to start, a health coach could help kick things into gear!

The UPMC Health Plan health coaching program

UPMC Health Plan members have access to Prescription for Wellness health coaches through their benefits packages. Our health coaches support members across a variety of areas, including lifestyle changes, condition management, and behavioral health.

If you are a UPMC Health Plan member who would like to make a change, the Prescription for Wellness health coaching team can help!

Health coaching gives you built-in help and support to take the next step on your journey toward healthy living. UPMC Health Plan is with you on that journey!


[i]Stress in America: The impact of discrimination. Stress in America™ Survey. American Psychological Association. March 10, 2016. Accessed December 19, 2019.

[ii]Consumer Trends in Health and Wellness. Forbes. November 19, 2015. Accessed December 19, 2019.

[iii]Americans’ Overall Level of Anxiety about Health, Safety and Finances Remain High. American Psychiatric Association. May 20, 2019. Accessed December 19, 2019.

[iv]Blackwell J, Collins M, Scribner C, et al. (2019). Health and Wellness Coaching Implemented by Trainees: Impact in Worksite Wellness. Glob Adv Health Med. 2019 January 1; 8:2164956119831226. doi: 10.1177/2164956119831226. eCollection 2019.

[v]Budzowski AR, Parkinson MD, Silfee VJ. An Evaluation of Lifestyle Health Coaching Programs Using Trained Health Coaches and Evidence-Based Curricula at 6 Months Over 6 Years. Am J Health Promot. 2019 July; 33(6):912-915. doi: 10.1177/0890117118824252

[vi]Clark MM, Bradley KL, Jenkins SM, et al. Improvements in health behaviors, eating self-efficacy, and goal-setting skills following participation in wellness coaching. Am J Health Promot. 2016 Jul 1;30(6):458-464. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.140627-QUAL-304. Epub 2015 Aug 25.

[vii]Gastala NM, Wingrove PM, Gaglioti AH, et al. The Growing Trend of Health Coaches in Team-Based Primary Care Training: A Multicenter Pilot Study. Fam Med. 2018 Jul;50(7):526-530. doi: 10.22454/FamMed.2018.459897

[viii]Sforzo GA, Kaye MP, Harenberg S, et al. Compendium of Health and Wellness Coaching: 2019 Addendum. Am J of Lifestyle Med. 2019 May 26. Accessed December 19, 2019.

[ix]Wolever RQ, Simmons LA, Sforzo GA, et al. A systematic review of the literature on health and wellness coaching: defining a key behavioral intervention in healthcare. Glob Adv Health Med. 2013 Jul;2(4):38-57. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2013.042

[x]Kreisberg J, Marra R. Board-certified Health Coaches? What Integrative Physicians Need to Know. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017 December;16(6):22–24.

[xi]Thom DH, Wolf J, Gardner H, et al. (2016). A qualitative study of how health coaches support patients in making health-related decisions and behavioral changes. Ann Fam Med. 2016 Nov;14(6):509-516. doi: 10.1370/afm.1988