One of our prospective students asked a question of me a few years ago that I simply have to share.
A practitioner asked, “I totally get the power of functional medicine. But if someone goes to see a good FM doc, why in the world would they still need a health coach?”
Well, because functional medicine on its own is not enough.
Quick story about Barb, a personal client of mine. Barb is like a lot of my clients these days: complex, suffering, and eager to change her life to get better. Barb was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about ten years ago and, despite medication, has still been suffering with dramatic hypothyroid function. Also progressive, painful osteoarthritis for the past two decades. Headaches, IBS, exhausted, overweight… A common and unfortunate, interconnected downward spiral.
In going through her health history and prior labs, I was amazed to see that Barb actually received a very thorough, root-cause work-up from a well known FM doc – about three years ago. Wow! Here was a comprehensive stool test, an organic acids test, a food sensitivity test, a cortisol profile, and extensive bloodwork (including a truly complete thyroid panel). I was so excited (the geek in me got giddy) – and shared with Barb that she had clearly been in good hands for the work-up. I couldn’t wait to dive in!
She said (and I quote), “Well, that’s good news because maybe now I can actually get some value out of that huge investment.”
When I asked what she meant, Barb shared that what she got from the FM doc was a “machine gun” rundown of all the test findings and a list of about 20 things that she needed to do in order to feel better. I asked her how much of it she implemented. She said she tried the first few things and got overwhelmed.
Bottom line: Barb did not have adequate support to get well. There was no one to be a partner in her journey. Data is pretty worthless unless we help patients and clients to actually DO something valuable with the information. Barb had accurate diagnoses and an awesome clinical work-up and a very appropriate, targeted list of recommendations. But without a coach, none of this excellent functional medicine output mattered. Barb was still suffering. She needed the three things we emphasize at SAFM as the most powerful services we can provide to any patient or client to help them get well and stay well: Education, Inspiration, and Empowerment.
You might be surprised to learn that I have had Many clients over the years with stories similar to Barb’s. It’s why I am so passionate about this truth: coaching is a powerful (and necessary) bridge between good medicine and the true healing people seek. More and more integrative and functional physicians are realizing the major value of incorporating coaching into their practice. Programs that teach physicians (e.g. The Functional Forum) how to build more effective and profitable practices are actively advising them to provide coaching too!
I believe the modality of coaching paired with functional medicine insight and know-how – this combination! – is the ultimate solution to effective health care. Here at SAFM, our student body includes those who are licensed or certified in about 16 different healthcare modalities, including an increasingly large percentage of physicians and nurse practitioners. We don’t teach any specific healthcare business model, but there are indeed many ways to successfully deliver this powerful combination if you are a medical practitioner. You can Be a coach too. You can Hire a coach. You can Refer to a coach. You can Take referrals from a coach. You can deal primarily with non-entrenched patient situations that don’t require months and months of coaching and simply dedicate a portion of each patient appointment to some Coaching engagement/support. Depending on your skills and preferences, any of these models can be wildly successful.
Whether a given SAFM practitioner is the one Doing the coaching or not, they understand why and how effective Coaching is key. Whether you have your own practice or work within a medical team, please know this truth: what you do is vital. Having access to strong coaching paired with confidence in applying functional medicine science truly sets you apart, on the cutting edge of health care that works.
Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world! I welcome your comments below.