What is a Holistic Health Coach?

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Jules Walters • Published: Jan 4, 2024

Ever wondered what is a holistic health coach, and what do they do? At its core, holistic health coaching is an approach that aims to improve overall well-being by focusing on the whole person; including their physical health, nutrition, environment and relationships. But there’s so much more to it than that.

Key Takeaways

  • Holistic health coaching looks at many aspects of a person’s well-being, including physical, emotional, and social connections, and uses personalized plans to guide clients on their wellness journey.
  • Effective holistic health coaches have strong communication skills, empathy, active listening, helpful tools and tests, and a passion for health and wellness.
  • The transformative power of holistic health coaching lies in its ability to nurture the client’s overall health, address root causes of health issues, and provide tools and support for sustainable changes and personal growth.

The Essence of Holistic Health Coaching

Health and wellness coaching session via desktop video call

Beyond diet and exercise, holistic health coaching considers many aspects of a person’s life to create an integrative wellness plan. This includes:

  • Sleep
  • Integrative nutrition and healthy eating
  • Managing stress
  • Social connections

With the support of wellness coaches, clients develop a plan to achieve a higher level of health and wellness. It’s estimated that up to 80% of visits to primary care doctors are stress-related, and that number is on the rise. So, managing or reducing stress is an important component.

The Holistic Approach

Many health coaches have gone through significant training, through organizations such as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, as I did, or the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching. This approach to wellness coaching is based on the philosophy that every individual is unique or bio-individual, with different factors determining what works best for them. The key is in finding an approach that works for each client and is sustainable over the long term. Health is a life-long sport!

Within this framework, primary food is a term used to denote factors off your plate that significantly impact your health, such as relationships and stress. Secondary food is what you put on your plate and ultimately in your mouth.

Although certification is not currently required to become a holistic health coach, it is worth checking what certification a coach has before deciding to work together. It is helpful to work with a coach who can use a range of tools and frameworks, so you can find an approach that works for you. There is no one answer that works for everyone. So, aim to build on what works for you.

The Role of a Holistic Health Coach

Holistic health coaches can work within a traditional heath setting, such as a primary care doctor’s office, or in a hospital setting, supporting follow through after a doctor’s visit. Most doctors’ appointments are short, around 12-15 minutes, and doctors are being asked to do more and more in a day. Health coaches can give more time to help their clients make important lifestyle changes.

Some health coaches work through their own coaching business or at wellness centers, supporting clients one-on-one, either in person or online. A typical coaching session is 45 minutes long and a health program can be structured over three to six months to support meaningful change.

Busy doctors are one of the key reasons why people are seeking additional help through health coaches. A health coach can help them to integrate lifestyle changes, beyond the prescription they might receive from a doctor. Change is hard. Even adapting a diet needs planning, so you can open the fridge to foods that will support your health.

Emerging Fields for Holistic Health Coaches

One of the more recent developments in holistic health coaching is in understanding how our genes influence the way we process and digest food. We all eat, but how our body uses food differs from person to person.

For example, about six per cent of Americans are glucose intolerant and feel bloated after they eat foods containing gluten. Gluten is commonly found in wheat and other grain products, like barley and rye.

Some of that intolerance effect will come down to our genes. For example, I have a gene that is common in people with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune response to gluten. Companies like 3×4 Genetics analyze 36 metabolic pathways affected by our genes and make recommendations based on the results. They work with an increasing number of health practitioners, who help to explain the results and how to incorporate them into real life through integrative nutrition.

Active Listening and Empathy

Holistic health coaches find active listening and empathy to be indispensable skills. Everyone has their own health story that explains their motivations, aspirations and challenges. Health or well being doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and understanding what else is going on in a client’s life is critical to putting in place a sustainable plan for positive change. Step by step.

The Impact of Holistic Health Coaching on Clients’ Lives

Holistic health coaching that leads to behavior change at the client’s own pace can be transformative. It:

  • Nurtures emotional and mental health
  • Looks at the bigger picture to find areas for self-improvement
  • Recognizes the connection between mind, body, and spirit
  • Helps clients set realistic health goals
  • Provides them with tools, resources and support to create a holistic wellness plan.

Evidence of personal coaching and its impact can be found in the remarkable success stories of people who have successfully stopped feeling bloated, found increased energy, and lost weight.


Holistic health coaching is a unique and powerful approach to wellness that goes beyond diet and exercise. It looks at the whole person, their physical, emotional and social well-being, and creates personalized wellness plans to support healthy living.

The key to becoming a successful holistic health coach lies in effective communication, empathy, active listening, and knowledge of helpful tools and tests. These skills, combined with a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all aspects of a person’s life, can bring about significant improvements in both physical and mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do holistic health coaches make money?

Holistic health coaches make money through one-on-one coaching. They may also sell e-books, online courses, supplements and wellness retreats. Coaches may focus on a particular niche, such as women over 50, or women approaching menopause. So, it’s good to find a coach with experience of your particular health challenges.

How long does it take to become a holistic life coach?

It typically takes around six months to one year to train to become a holistic life coach. Many coaches have worked as other health professionals, such as a nurse or physical therapist, before becoming a coach.

Are holistic health coaches in demand?

Yes. There is a growing demand for holistic health coaches. Numbers of healthcare support staff, which includes health coaches, has grown by 34% since 2019. Health coaching has emerged as a $7 billion growth market, with further growth predicted.

What is the role of a holistic health coach?

A holistic health coach plays a vital role in guiding and supporting clients to achieve personalized health and wellness goals through non-diagnostic methods. They provide valuable support and strategies for holistic well-being.