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Integrative medicine center offers personal coaching

Duke Integrative Medicine now offers personal health coaching as part of its overall strategy of integrating complementary and alternative medicine with conventional care.

Working with a personal health coach is increasingly recognized as an effective strategy for achieving health goals and improving overall well-being, according to experts at Duke Integrative Medicine.

The need for health coaches has grown exponentially in recent years as the demands of balancing work and life stresses have taken a toll on personal health. Coupled with an aging population, a growing number of people are seeking assistance in efforts to improve their health by addressing such issues as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and excess weight, while others simply need help optimizing their overall well-being.

"Healthcare has long been about 'fixing' people - treating disease to return a person's body and mind to an acceptable state of health," said Julie Kosey, MS, CPCC, ACC, integrative health coaching manager at Duke Integrative Medicine. "And separately, people have sought the support and guidance of coaches in a wide range of disciplines, such as athletics, career and life, to help them move to new levels. Health coaching brings these two worlds - healthcare and personal coaching - together."

A Clinical Approach

Duke Integrative Medicine is the first major academic medical center to take the emerging field of health coaching to a new level by developing a specific role for the integrative health coach on the clinical team. By drawing from different coaching disciplines as well as integrative medicine principles, the integrative health coach helps clients improve their health and enhance the quality of their lives.

Integrative health coaching is a critical element of the "personalized health plan," which practitioners at Duke Integrative Medicine help patients to develop and implement. Offered at its new state-of-the-art building - designed specifically for healing - patients participate in an intensive "immersion" program. Together with Duke physicians and healthcare professionals, each patient develops an individualized plan tailored to his or her needs. After the patient leaves the center, this plan serves as a blueprint for the patient and health coach as they continue to work together for months or even years.

"As part of Duke Integrative Medicine's innovative model, coaches assist patients in recognizing their inherent creativity and resourcefulness, and help them use these to attain their wellness and life goals," said Ruth Q. Wolever, Ph.D., director of research at Duke Integrative Medicine and assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke Medical Center. "Rather than simply motivating them, effective coaches help their patients find inspiration by connecting them with what matters most in their lives."

Wolever added that clinical research is demonstrating that coaching increases adherence to health goals by helping patients sustain the mindset needed to make lifestyle and behavior changes for the long haul. For instance, a study funded by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services and conducted by Duke Integrative Medicine showed that integrative medicine principles, along with the assistance of health coaching in supporting behavior change, improved cardiovascular risk compared with usual care.

"By identifying reasons for making changes and setting realistic goals, patients are more likely to stick to a long-term program," she said. "Patients are encouraged to predict obstacles and develop strategies for accessing inner motivation. They learn how to use their personal values and purpose to support day-to-day behavior changes."

Health Coach Training

Currently, there are various options for health and wellness coaching training. The International Coach Federation (ICF) accredits coach training programs and offers its own credentialing process for coaches. While ICF and other organizations such as The Coaches Training Institute have subgroups dedicated to wellness and mind, body and spirit disciplines, there currently is no formal certification for integrative health coaches.

"At Duke Integrative Medicine, we are exploring the training that might standardize integrative health coaching so that, as the demand grows, there will be consistency in education, skills and experience among coaches to help clients achieve their health goals," Kosey said.

She added, however, that Duke Integrative Medicine coaches have a graduate degree in health behavior, training in coaching skills from programs accredited by ICF, experience helping clients change health behavior both individually and in groups, and knowledge of integrative medicine and health.

"Skills, education and training are clearly important in helping patients meet their goals," Kosey said. "But the comfort level a person has with his or her coach is just as important. The patient-coach relationship is very intimate, so trust and respect are critical components."

To help patients determine if a coach is right for them, Kosey says they should consider the following key questions:

-- Does the person have the skills and experience you are looking for?

-- Will the coach provide a sample session so you can experience his or
her style and approach?

-- Is there a good rapport with the person and would you feel
comfortable talking about deeply personal issues?

-- How will you and the coach work together? Via phone (most typical
format) or in person? Will you have access to your coach through

-- Does the cost fit your budget and how will payment be handled? Are
you ready to invest in coaching which is typically a significant
investment of time and money?

-- Will the coach provide references? Does he or she uphold the
International Coach Federation Code of Ethics?

About Duke Integrative Medicine

Duke Integrative Medicine helps patients achieve maximum health and well-being by blending advanced medical practice and research with proven complementary therapies that contribute to health, healing and disease treatment and prevention. At Duke Integrative Medicine, clinical care, individualized health coaching and therapeutic support work together to address the patient's physical, mental and emotional needs.

Located on the scenic Duke campus in Durham, North Carolina, Duke Integrative Medicine's 27,000-plus-square-foot facility is the first of its kind devoted to the practice of integrative medicine. Designed for healing, the Duke Integrative Medicine Center offers warm spaces, scenic gardens and a broad array of therapies, programs and services, combining the best of academic medicine with whole-person healing traditions.

For more information, contact Emily Coghlan, APCO Worldwide, at 202-778-1025 or visit

The Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on holistic, alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies. The law firm represents medical doctors, allied health professionals (from psychologists to nurses and dentists) and other clinicians (from chiropractors to naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, and acupuncturists), entrepreneurs, hospitals, and educational organizations, health care institutions, and individuals and corporations.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), exploring legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, massage therapy, energy healing, and herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. Michael H. Cohen is author of books on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy dealing with complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, including Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), and Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).

Health care and corporate lawyer Michael H. Cohen has been admitted to the Bar of California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C., and to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing). For more information, see the FAQs for the Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen. Thank you for visiting the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog.

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