Complementing Mainstream Medicine with Coaching
In medicine, health coaching can be an amazing tool to create a new perspective to complement current traditional medical practices, and help patients to deal with trauma.
How does life and health coaching benefit mainstream medicine?
The expansion of the coaching industry over the past decade offers physicians and patients alike an opportunity to create a new medical paradigm, transforming the current deficiency model of mainstream medicine to include a holistic and empowering view of the human experience. Coaching complements conventional medical practice and offers patients and traditional medical professionals a new healing paradigm.
As an allopathic physician practicing conventional medicine, I learned to evaluate and diagnose ailments, leading to treatment and cure. After 20 years of practice, I have found the ultimate alternative to mainstream medicine is embracing the totality of the precious human before me. That means acknowledging what is working even more so than what is not working regarding the health of the physical body, as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
The opportunity to look at health in this multi-dimensional way is best served through the lens of capacity, growth, and fulfillment, instead of the mainstream medicine approach of deficiency or prevention of harm.
As a pediatrician, I remember doing well visits where I would ask questions until I settled on “it,” the problem that needed to be addressed. Ironically, these patients were coming in for routine physicals and to make sure everything was growing and going well. I was on the hunt to find something that was wrong. I meant no harm with this; it was something that I looked at as a mystery: what was there that I could fix and help this patient? This is the standard medical mindset: search for the problem, find the source, and eradicate it.
As I was introduced to the concepts of life and health coaching, I was offered a new perspective. With coaching, we believe that every client is whole and complete, and has the answers for their own unique body and situation. I was educated on appreciative inquiry, which means searching for the good, and shining a light upon it as what our brains focus upon grows.
With my new perspective, I started focusing upon what was going right for my patients in the office. I started celebrating their victories, and their perceived failures. My patients were perplexed by the focus on their failures, but we explored more. Failures are opportunities to learn, and the more that we learn from what doesn’t go as we anticipated, the more we become resistant to failure. That opens us up to become more capable of doing and enduring.
"I had made a complete shift in my approach to medical care, simply because I stopped looking for things to fix. My patients, just like my coaching clients, are whole. The alternative that I offer to them is a different perspective. It is still medicine. It is holistic, and empowering."
Recently, I welcomed a mother and child for an urgent visit. The child had fallen from a couch and the mother was terrified that there was a deeper injury. On the surface, the question was whether there was anything to fix about the child. He did not meet clinical criteria for significant risk or evidence of injury: that part was easy. The mother was palpably upset: her child had been hurt on her watch, while she was right there, but could not stop the injury. As I evaluated the child, I asked her to tell me about how she had been supportive of her child that day. She had been playing with him on the couch, seated right next to him when he fell, she addressed his needs right away, she was comforting him in the office. She reflected that her anxiety decreased because she saw how she had been there with her child all day. Instead of continuing to hurt herself more with judgment and accusation, she let herself heal from the trauma of the day, as the child clearly would as well.
Life coaches do add to the value of mainstream medicine, with some caveats. Life coaching is not the practice of medicine. And to be honest, that’s the good part. Because mainstream medicine is built upon a deficiency model of finding what’s broken and fixing it. But together, coaching complements mainstream medicine. Using coaching tools, physicians can help their patients view their health as an investment that they make every day, instead of a bar to achieve.
If you’re not familiar with life and health coaching, seek a physician coach online. When we as physicians are familiar with the options to help ourselves and our patients, doors open for a new type of healing. Coaching tools integrate nicely into modern medical practice. ☤
Wendy Schofer, MD, FAAP, DipABLM is a pediatrician, lifestyle physician and certified life and health coach. She is the founder of Family in Focus, and Weight Coach for Your Whole Family. Erin Schofer is a college student and editorial guru. this is her health coaching website: