Empowering Wellness Professionals: Transforming Passion into Profit

2023-10-12 03:20:00

A course that promises to turn one’s passion for wellness into a lucrative profession. The possibility of helping hundreds of people create healthy lifestyle habits. Two words, health coach [algo así como un monitor de la salud], which encompass everything: from developing diets, to creating training routines for clients, through techniques to control stress and training to help clients change their lives. All this thanks to a distance course in which you have to study a couple of hours a day and pay a tuition fee of a few thousand euros. The internet is full of courses and academies like these, advertised especially through social networks. However, experts warn of the danger of turning to professionals who are not prepared to advise on the physical and mental health of those who turn to them for help.

“It is essential that the population is aware of the danger they run by putting themselves in the hands of these so-called professionals,” warns Giuseppe Russolillo, president of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Given the increase in this type of courses, the doctor denounces the “intrusion” of a professional category that is not officially recognized by the State and that, taking advantage of this legal loophole, “meddles in matters that do not concern them” and that can be harmful to health. “There are also many nutritionists who start doing this. It can be an accompaniment, but always without invading the skills that professionals have,” he insists.

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There is no universal definition of what exactly coaching is, a practice to achieve personal goals that has spread like wildfire in recent years. “The word coach carries a methodology that you can apply to any type of area,” says Enrique Jurado, founder of D’Arte Human & Business School, an academy that teaches a master’s degree in Professional Coaching next to the Polytechnic University of Cartagena. “In history there has always been the figure of the mentor, who helps you from different points of view and in different aspects of your life. Human beings have always needed someone to help them understand themselves. Before it was the religion, the shaman… now there are the coaches.”

Training to be a coach in Spain is not regulated, but there are reference entities that authenticate the courses and academies that grant some type of certification. The largest at the state level, and the oldest, is the Spanish Coaching Association (ASESCO), which has been working since 2000 in “the defense and promotion of professional, ethical, responsible and quality Coaching”, according to its website. The organization, which accredits more than 20 training programs, defends the legitimacy of this work. “As in all branches, there are people who practice their profession responsibly and others who, unfortunately, do not. It is very important to be sure that the professionals who work as coaches comply with the training requirements, the code of ethics and the corresponding certification by one of the coaching associations to have the guarantee that we are dealing with a good professional who can help us and accompany in change processes,” explains a spokesperson.

Intrusion in the profession

One of the points on which there is the most conflict between coaches and psychologists, nutritionists or trainers who are registered is precisely the recognition given to this practice. Is it a profession or a method? Beatriz García Ricondo is the managing partner of Crearte Coaching, a school that teaches courses that are recognized by ASESCO and the International Coach Federation (ICF), the international reference entity that establishes three types of certifications: Certified Associate Coach, which requires 60 hours of training and 100 hours of experience with clients; Certified Professional Coach, which raises the requirements to 125 hours of training and 500 hours of experience; and Certified Master Coach, with 200 hours of training and 2,500 hours of experience. A course to achieve intermediate training at this school costs 3,590 euros.

García Ricondo has a “quite fluid” idea of ​​what exactly coaching is. “Personally, I like to see it as a philosophy of life, although you can also make coaching a profession. It can be considered a discipline of change management, a methodology with which we manage different people,” he develops. García explains that when working with “the people”—who at no point calls patients—you have to take into account four fundamental questions: where I am, where I am going, what I have and what I am missing. “From there we work session by session so that people mark their action plans.”

The coach denies that this type of work can in any way invade the field of psychology. “There are times when a client comes to you and you don’t know how far you can go. There, the coaches have the responsibility of referring it to the family doctors,” explains García, although she insists that the work they do is different from that of psychologists. “We do not work with pathologies, although it is true that the method can be applied to different contexts. Coaching focuses on people who are functional on a daily basis, who are clear that they want to change and need a push to focus and achieve their goals,” she adds.

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From the Official College of Psychology of Madrid they insist that it is not correct to talk regarding professions, and that it is precisely this type of nomenclature that allows intrusion. “It is a method, it is not a profession,” explains psychologist and vocalist Isabel Aranda bluntly. “There is no type of official regulation and it is a word that can apply to anything. But for them to dare to do therapy by getting into the field of psychology is very risky.”

The expert recognizes that at one point in her career, when she already had a degree in psychology, she attended a course to learn coaching techniques and apply them in her profession. However, her experience left her bewildered. “The first day they told me that she had a problem being a coach precisely because she was already a psychologist, when in reality this should be normal. Have a profession and apply a method to it, and not the other way around,” she explains. In addition, she warns that cases of malpractice are already being verified due to the interference of some coaches in very sensitive matters in the lives of patients. “Clinical colleagues are reporting that they receive patients who have allowed themselves to be treated by coaches who do not know what they have done. People who develop compulsive disorders from hearing so much that they can do everything, that they are worth it. These types of messages are not harmless, they can do a lot of harm.”

Although the members of these academies and schools try to qualify it, on the web pages of some of these courses, coaching is sold for all purposes as a profession that does not require prior training to be able to begin practicing it, despite having in its Module topics linked to nutrition and sports. “At the end of the course you will be prepared to work as a comprehensive health coach. You will be able to develop your activity as a freelancer and help hundreds of people improve their lifestyle by creating healthy habits,” he quotes. the EnPhorma Health Coaching course pagewhich has a cost of 1,500 euros.

A spokesperson for this platform—whose training is provided by the Gen360 academy, an entity that teaches dozens of classes, from courses to be a beautician to an interior decorator, but also a masseuse or neuropathy— assures that the objective of the course is limited to “creating healthy living habits,” and that at no time is it implied that whoever does it “is going to be a nutritionist or go on diets for anyone.” However, on the website you might consult the course syllabus (which has been deleted following speaking with this newspaper), which also talked regarding “dietary and nutritional coaching” and “sports coaching.”

Screenshot of the EnPhorma ‘health coach’ course syllabus, which is no longer available on the website.Screenshot of the EnPhorma ‘health coach’ course syllabus, which is no longer available on the website. Screenshot of the syllabus of EnPhorma’s ‘health coach’ course, which is no longer available on the website.

“It is a total scam, for both parties. Both for patients and for people who pay for this type of course,” denounces Miguel Ángel Gómez Ruano, professor at the Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences at the Polytechnic University of Madrid. “There is the innocent person who believes it and does it thinking it is valid. And then there is the one who looks for the fast track, who does not want to do a vocational training or a career. In addition to being ethically incorrect, it is very dangerous. Nobody would get on a plane made by an engineer who took an online course, why should it be reliable to follow a training plan made by a health coach?” asks the professor.

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