Searching for a Cancer Coach?

CURE, Fall 2011, Volume 10, Issue 3

Interview and research a potential cancer coach before hiring.

The proliferation of coaching services for cancer survivors underscores a need for vigilance. Not all coaches are trained or certified. Some have no professional or medical expertise. In fact, there are no national standards or certification programs for people who bill themselves specifically as cancer coaches, says Mary Lou Galantino, PT, PhD, a certified wellness coach. “It is important to determine specific training and background information before embarking on a coaching journey.”

On the other hand, there are national and international certification programs for certain types of coaches, including life and wellness coaches. But that doesn’t mean everyone who runs an independent coaching business is certified, Galantino cautions. “Certification is essential to ensure the use of sound principles of coaching and not overstepping boundaries of medical practice.”

Certified wellness coaches must have a professional healthcare background and typically draw from evidence-based methodologies to guide cancer survivors toward actionable outcomes. They may refer patients to a professional counselor if they think it would help them achieve their wellness goals. Certified life coaches tend to look at the patient’s whole life experience, which includes wellness, but might also touch on major life decisions.

Understand that coaching goes by many names, but most coaching is intended to help with positive outcomes for behavioral changes.

Coaches may be affiliated with medical practices or they may operate independently. They may be doctors, nurses, nutritionists, psychologists or any other health professional—or simply someone who decides to become a coach and open a practice, with no formal training or experience. Coaching can be done in person, over the phone or even by email. Be leery of coaches who recommend certain treatments or push alternative treatments or supplements.

If possible, get a referral for a coach through a hospital, clinic or reputable cancer organization. Be sure to interview potential coaches before hiring one. Consider professional background and training, certifications and affiliations, coaching philosophy and methodology, services offered, length of time in business, fees and client references.

Wellness coach Paula Holland De Long says coaching is not covered by insurance and can range from $75 to $250 per one-hour session. She adds that many coaches offer a variety of services in different price ranges, such as webinars and teleconferences.

If possible, get a referral for a coach through a hospital, clinic or reputable cancer organization. Be sure to interview potential coaches before hiring one.