Val Pallotta

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A Mother Channels Her Grief by Helping Others as a Health and Wellness Coach

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For decades, Valerie Pallotta’s passion has revolved around holistic and integrative health.

An aromatherapist since 1994, she has pursued complementary and alternative healing methods and completed healing touch and energy medicine coursework. But she feels like she’s just getting started on putting her passion into practice.

In fall 2019, she enrolled in UVM’s Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate, a 15-credit program that prepares professionals how to be an integrative health and wellness coach and work with individuals to promote healthy lifestyle changes.

“I’ve learned so much about self-care in that we can’t help others if we can’t help ourselves. It’s just so important to be present in what you’re doing,” says Pallotta, who works in the UVM Army ROTC office and completed the certificate this fall. “I’m learning a lot about listening and how to be an active listener.”

The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) introduced a certification exam for health and wellness coaches in 2017, formally recognizing the profession and increasing demand for certified coaches. Students who complete HLTH 187, 188, 189, 287, 288, and 289, along with a minimum of 60 University credits total, and 50 coaching sessions are eligible to sit the NBHWC National Certification Exam.

Pallotta, who will sit for the certification exam in February 2021, is also offering coaching sessions a week as part of her coursework.

“It’s a ton of work, but I love it so much. It’s so much fun to see people set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) goals and set actionable goals and reaching them,” she says.  “Witnessing the behavioral changes and growth in a client in just a few weeks has been amazing. I cannot wait to begin coaching veterans. Offering them hope that they discover on their own will empower them and God-willing, save lives.”

Channeling Grief into Helping Veterans

When her son, Josh, who served in Afghanistan and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, died by suicide in 2014, Pallotta was determined to learn more about how to help others with healing, health, and wellness.

A decade ago, when Josh was deployed, Pallotta was a member of the Parent Network at the Vermont National Guard, meeting other parents whose sons and daughters were in the military. She also volunteered for the Vermont National Guard’s Family Programs Director and was instrumental in chartering the first Vermont chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America, which supports veterans and their families with emergency financial assistance and provides meal support for veterans in transitional housing.

Years before Josh joined the military, Pallotta wanted to create a unit to support veterans who were struggling with reintegration when they returned from deployment. After Josh died, Pallotta poured her grief into helping other veterans.

“After my son returned home from Afghanistan, he gradually started to decline as he suffered from invisible wounds and a traumatic brain injury,” she says. “In the military, they are told what they are supposed to eat, what to wear, and where they need to be. When they come home, they sometimes struggle reintegrating into civilian life. This struggle was amplified in Josh and members of his unit. They lost two soldiers from their unit in 2010, and I think he had survivor’s guilt. He came back home and lost that brotherhood connection and his sense of purpose.”

Pallotta is working with REM Development on renovating the former VA clinic in Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, with an anticipated opening date in January. The Wellness Recreation Center for Veterans will be called Josh’s House VT.

She hopes to combine traditional and integrative therapies to include aromatherapy, chiropractic, Healing Touch, massage, meditation, Reflexology, Reiki, and integrative health and wellness coaching, as well as, a gym, computer lab, kitchen, and area for a television and video games. There will also be a teaching component in Josh’s House VT with enough space to teach guitar, fly fish tying, or anything else that veterans might have an interest in learning, Pallotta says.

Making a Difference as Health and Wellness Coach

Pallotta says UVM’s Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate is ideal for anyone who wants to help people.

The certificate also helped Pallotta zero-in on her long-term passion for healing and wellness. After graduating from high school and attending cosmetology school, she says she struggled for years to find a niche. While she doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree yet, she thinks she will now be able to earn one with a focus on integrative health and wellness.

“The UVM program provided an avenue for self-discovery and self-growth, while at the same time helped me learn the skills to support others on their path to whole health and wellness,” she says. “It also provided a space for my own healing that I so desperately need in my life. “