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Health and Wellness Coaching Program Teaches the Power of Communication

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-Susan Whitman and her family 

The key to being an effective health and wellness coach is knowing how to be an excellent communicator and listener.

In UVM’s new 15-credit Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate, learning those important skills is at the heart of the program.

“We don’t teach nutrition, and we don’t teach how to exercise,” says Susan Whitman, a physician assistant, certified health and wellness coach, and curriculum consultant who teaches in the health and wellness coaching program. “Our program teaches people the communication and motivational interviewing skills to help someone create awareness and make the lifestyle changes they’re searching for.”

UVM’s coaching program teaches the foundation of integrative health and wellness coaching and how to work with individuals to promote healthy lifestyle changes. Students who complete all 15 credits, and a minimum of 60 University credits total, are eligible to sit for the NBHWC National Certification Exam.

Whitman, who attended Duke Integrative Medicine’s coaching program and ran a private coaching practice until 2020, was instrumental in establishing the UVM Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate. She was part of the first cohort to pass the National Board Exam for Health and Wellness Coaches in 2017.

“Wellness isn’t just about what I’m eating or whether I’m moving my body,” she says. “It’s also taking the time to ask yourself, ‘Do I have supportive relationships, am I working on something that fulfills me? Am I connected to a purpose? Is my environment soothing, motivating, and invigorating to me?’”

A Path to Health and Wellness Coaching

Whitman, who specializes in behavior change, the health coaching process, and integrative medicine, worked as a physician assistant before focusing on integrative health and wellness. She admits that her own life’s hectic pace several years ago made her feel like she wasn’t able to give patients the attention and level of care they deserved.

“I burned myself out. I was working as a PA at a local health clinic. I had two young boys, and keeping up with that pace was exhausting,” she says. “Adding to that was this feeling that I wasn’t really helping anyone. I kept feeling like I was in this race of maintaining health but not really healing anyone. I had maybe 15 minutes to spend with a patient. There were a lot of layers that people were dealing with, and I felt like I was just putting band-aids on their problems.”

Whitman left the local clinic and worked at an urgent care center, where the pace was slower, and she could spend time getting to know patients and help them make healthy changes in their lifestyles. The experience was a revelation and led Whitman to become trained and certified as an integrated health and wellness coach.

“At UVM, we’re teaching people how to listen to someone without their own bias or without telling clients what they think they should do,” she says. “My goal is for students to come out of the coaching program with the ability to understand how to listen and help someone get excited to make a change in their life. It’s about trying to help someone find motivation and help them develop a plan.”

-Fall registration for the program opens April 19, 2021

Learn more about the UVM Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate

-Photo credit: Shem Roose Imagery.