Melbourne Functional Medicine
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Prior to 2016, Melbourne Functional Medicine (MFM) operated like many other clinics. Patients were seeing their practitioner, being given clinical recommendations, and often coming back with gaps in their application. Our practitioners were dispensing world-class advice, yet we knew our patients could have been getting better outcomes.
This was frustrating for our practitioners who would sometimes joke that if they were treating robots, our success rate would be 100%. It became obvious that we had a leak in our bucket, and that health coaches were the putty. We recognised we needed health coaches to give our patients the advantage of behaviour change strategy, accountability and support through their health transformation to get the results they were seeking.
“I can tell my patients what to do, but if they don’t do it, it doesn’t matter” - Mark Hyman
If you’re wanting to improve your health, we know that while you might be feeling motivated, driven and determined to make change, for most, this enthusiasm tends to ebb and flow. Many people want to improve their health and haven’t had the opportunity to develop skills around behaviour change, habit creation and goal setting that health coaches can help with.
At MFM, we want to set you up for the greatest success by teaming you up with an expert in change, alongside receiving the clinical direction from your practitioner.
At its core, health coaching at MFM is about change and the ability for someone to make adjustments to their lifestyle that will support their health goals. A coach fills the gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’.
The health coach toolkit consists of evidence-based interventions, including active listening, motivational interviewing, positive psychology strategies, and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goal setting.
Where a practitioner might be quite tactical and give you specific strategies, advising ‘what’ to do, a health coach is skilled at helping you work out the ‘how’, to implement and make meaningful change.
If you’ve ever seen a healthcare provider and haven’t been able to follow the clinical direction, that is likely because change, for most, is difficult. You might not fully understand how to do it, why to do it, or, importantly, how to navigate around the natural obstacles or barriers that might get in your way.
These obstacles or objections can be anything from being too busy, being forgetful, not knowing how to do something, starting and then struggling to continue with the change, and being overwhelmed by having too many changes to make.
Health coaches guide people to transform their behaviour in order to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.
During health coaching sessions at MFM, the coach and patient collaborate to turn aspirations into achievable goals. Because health coaching is a patient-centred process, the coach does not set the goals, but helps the patient establish them through an inquiry process. They help the patient decide where they want to begin their journey towards better health. This is key to cultivating a sense of empowerment.
“Without health coaching, patients find it much more difficult to stay on track. I see profound outcomes when a patient engages with their coach” - Jabe Brown
A health coach educates and supports the patients as they make diet and lifestyle changes. But the process isn’t just teaching them to eat this and not that, or get more sleep and reduce stress. A vital component of the health coaching process involves helping people discover their own power to change. Don’t be tricked into thinking that a health coach is going to do the work for you - they are much more like an ally, someone who will ask you good questions so that you can understand yourself, your behaviour and how you might possibly be getting in your own way.
The process is judgement free and curiosity-led.
Some of the actions a health coach can take to help you are:
Now you’re getting a sense of the health coach’s role, you’ll recognise it is not directive, but is a way to help you figure out what you need to do to succeed with your health goals.
It is equally important to be clear about what a health coach doesn’t do. Health coaches have a scope of practice, in which all coaches are taught to stay within the realm of their skillset. Health coaches do not:
A health coach may, through robust conversation, identify that a patient might require specialist support from a mental health expert, their practitioner or other health professional. The health coach may make that recommendation and will also consult with your practitioner on the correct course of action.
To help you further understand the role of a health coach compared to other mind or lifestyle experts:
We encourage you to engage with your health coach frequently - weekly to begin with and as time passes, a little less often (or as desired). Coaching conversations can be held by phone or by video link.
More frequent conversations improve the likelihood of gaining a deeper understanding of your potential barriers, help us to stay abreast of your clinical changes, and help you celebrate your wins.
You can always guide your health coach towards what you need, and we might also make a recommendation based on our understanding of your situation.
While health and wellness coaching in Australia & New Zealand is an unregulated industry, a peak industry body, Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association (HCANZA), has established recognised standards for training of coaches within the region.
These standards provide a useful benchmark for recognising quality in training and continuous professional development. HCANZA recognises national and international health and wellness coaching programs that have been deemed to meet the standards for highly skilled and qualified coaches. All health coaches at Melbourne Functional Medicine are members of HCANZA and continue with professional development in line with membership guidelines.
Health coaching bridges the gap between knowing and doing. With a health coach on your healthcare team, in our experience, you are more likely to stay the course, achieve your health goals and feel completely supported along the way.
If you’re wanting the guidance of a practitioner with the support of a health coach to improve your health picture, book a discovery call today to take the first step to working together.