Is it possible to be a successful health coach in the UK? The field of health coaching is growing quickly as people realize the benefit of coaching for making lasting change. But most of the information about health coaching online is for an American audience. Can you actually have a career as a health coach in the UK? I interviewed several successful health coaches in Britain to get their advice.
Is health coaching a viable career in the UK?
“Yes, there is a huge need for health coaches to be ambassadors of preventative and supportive health and wellness practices. Increasing health coaches’ status in lifestyle medicine could dramatically contribute to reducing chronic disease and saving lives as well as supporting the NHS. When our news is constantly reporting on the insane hours of doctors and the increasing ratio of patients to doctors, imagine if every doctors surgery had one or two health coaches. What a huge impact that would have. We need more!” – Tayyaba Jordan, International Health & Wellness Coach
“Absolutely. We are just getting started. So much positive progress has been made in the last 2 years and the future is incredibly exciting!” – Villy Tsvetkova, Holistic Health & Lifestyle Coach, Functional Medicine Health Coach
“You can make a career as a health coach, but it takes time to build your business. People are starting to become more aware of diet and lifestyle and how this affects their health. Health Coaches are very much needed.” –Rachel Collins, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
“I think that there is a huge potential for well-trained health coaches in the UK. The NHS is overstretched and cannot provide the lifestyle coaching so many people really need. If you think that 10% of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes and its related lifestyle diseases, you can understand that the potential is huge.” – Claudia Armani, Certified Health Coach and Pilates Teacher
“I feel Health Coaching in the UK is an exciting career choice in a rapidly expanding field. There are so many possibilities. Corporate programs, private practice, creating resources and products or working within the NHS. I feel that health coaching will only continue to be incorporated into UK mainstream healthcare. The NHS consider patient self care and self management a top priority driven by continual evidence of its benefits.
I’m also very positive about the wellness culture in the UK. Individual understanding of the importance of prioritizing mental and physical health is improving and people are open to preventative health measures and self management in all ranges of condition.” – Angelina Nizzardi, Health Coach at Green Goddess
“I think it’s still a new profession and not widely recognized, but as more people join the profession then it will become more well known. As Health Coaches we have to distinguish ourselves from other providers. As qualified coaches are role is to support and guide rather than tell, which is a skill and would suit individuals who like that aspect of health.” – Joanna Shurety, Health Coach & Nutritional Therapist
But will British people pay for health coaching?
I’ve heard from many new health coaches that they’re worried people won’t pay for health services in the UK, because they’re used to getting them for free with the NHS. So I asked these practicing health coaches what their experience has been.
“In the beginning, I worried a lot about people not paying for health coaching. In my experience, it’s simply not true. People come to me because the NHS say they are not poorly enough to qualify for support (this happens a lot with overweight women!). Or because the NHS isn’t able to help them with the changes they need to make to their diet and lifestyle. Or because the NHS only wants to treat with medication and they know that diet and lifestyle changes could help too.” – Rachel Collins
“It’s not really an issue. People want to know that their money is well invested and that will provide results. More and more people are starting to realize that the NHS cannot provide those lifestyle medicine services that are needed.” – Claudia Armani
But not everyone agrees…
“I think there is a truth in that. And unfortunately, my clients often come to me with fairly serious issues. So by that point they are willing to pay. Often they have been through the normal channels with no joy. But I think for the right client coaching is life changing. And there seems to be an increasing need for our services.” – Tayyaba Jordan
“I agree to a point. There is so much free information out there and yet people still live day to day with poor health habits. So, although we often know what we need to do and want to achieve, it’s the process that is the struggle – that is the magic of coaching. My challenge, as a coach is to link what they want, to how coaching can help them get there. Coaching is familiar in the business setting, I think people investing in themselves via health coaching is still a little foreign.” – Joanna Shurety
And then there’s the middle of the road…
“My experience has been a mixture of both. Yes, there are people who cannot and may not be able to get the value of health coaching due to it being a fairly new modality in the UK and not very well understood. On the other side of the spectrum are people who have had health issues for years and have tried most conventional & some alternative approaches with minimal results to show. They appreciate a functional, investigative approach to health, which looks at the whole body, mind and soul as tightly interlinked. These people are usually more receptive to exploring new avenues affecting their health outside of the traditional focus on primarily food, sleep & exercise.” – Villy Tsvetkova
“Clinicians cannot always offer the patients their preferred treatment for free and I see many people looking for natural or holistic alternatives.
Many people I see also pay for private healthcare. In my experience, the UK’s health service is in no way the biggest barrier to seeking out health coaching services.” – Angelina Nizzardi
What’s one thing you wish you’d known when you first started out as a health coach?
“To be more confident about how I could help. My practice has grown so much since I got brave and said ‘I can help you with that’.
To keep my confidence up, I continue my education. I am always learning (I’m currently studying with the School of Applied Functional Medicine and since graduating IIN in 2014, I’ve done a Nutritional Therapist course and studied Herbal Medicine for Women under Dr Aviva Romm).
That’s not to say my health coaching diploma wasn’t enough but there is always more to learn and people are getting better educated about their health all the time. We as health coaches need to stay one step ahead.
I also wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on branding and my website, logo etc. Denise Duffield-Thomas calls it ‘procrastabranding’. Get on to social media, start networking in person and tell people what you help with. The clients will come.” – Rachel Collins
“I didn’t realise that I would need a tight, supportive community around me. I sort of discovered that pretty quickly! And the fact that working as a health coach meant creating & running a business vs just doing the coaching element. I grossly underestimated the business part and all the activities and skills that come with it. There are so many more moving parts to this than just sharing our passion for creating a healthier world.” – Villy Tsvetkova
“When I started my practice I offered ‘wellness coaching’ which of course means everything and nothing! If you have to spend time explaining what you do it will be very difficult to attract clients. One of the first things to decide is who you can help? Ideally based around an area you are passionate about. You can then tailor your offerings to that section of people in a clear and concise way.
Also to appreciate there will be lots of marketing, PR and sales focus if you decide to set up your own business. Be prepared for lots of time and effort in this area!” – Angelina Nizzardi
“I didn’t realise that connecting with people about the benefits of coaching would be so hard! Once people work with me, they feel and see the benefits, and are often my best sales people! Talks have been the most effective way of me connecting people to my one-to-one service.” – Joanna Shurety
Any advice for UK-based people considering doing a health coaching certification?
“It’s an amazing thing to do, but know that this first qualification will not be your last. This is just the start of your learning journey. Health is complex, we will never know it all!” – Rachel Collins
“Get a recognised qualification (the UK Health Coaches Association can help with this). There are a lot of courses out there so make sure yours stands up. Get insurance and stay in the boundaries of your modality.
In my practice, I work with doctors, FMD’s, nutritionists, and psychologists. I don’t pretend to be any of them and if a case is beyond my expertise I pass it on refer or recommend an expert.” -Tayyaba Jordan
“Absolutely go for it if this is where your heart is leading you. You’ll figure things out as you go along. I certainly didn’t go into coaching consciously, things just developed organically from my curiosity after signing up the get certified. We are becoming way more established and recognised thanks to the incredible work of the UK Health Coaches Association in the last 2 years. Also, be realistic. Creating a business takes time, energy and money. It’s not usually the overnight success some instagrammers make it look like it is!” – Villy Tsvetkova
“Research before enrolling, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and get yourself some good business training!” – Claudia Armani
“Be realistic about how quickly your business will get up and running. It takes time and a lot to networking, meetings and blogging – you will get there. Finding a niche is also a good start point – is there an area you want to specifically focus on in helping people.” – Joanna Shurety
If you’re considering becoming a health coach in the UK, check out my free Health Coach Decision Kit to help you decide if it’s the right next step for you!