Writing a wellness plan requires health practitioners to understand their clients beyond their symptoms. Read on to learn more about how to write an effective wellness plan & what to include.
Treatment plans are commonplace among health professionals, from medical to mental treatment. There are many reasons for this, from helping to ensure positive outcomes to requirements for insurance. While health coaching doesn’t require them for insurance purposes (not yet anyway), they should always be used to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.
They also aren’t technically “treatment” plans, since health coaching isn’t treatment-based, but instead is wellness-based. So, a more appropriate terminology for it would be a “wellness plan.”
What is a wellness plan? How do you write a wellness plan? There is a fairly straightforward structure to them, which helps with consistency, an important element to success in coaching. Beyond that though, getting oneself properly set up to write the plan is paramount. This involves an appropriate and thorough intake/assessment process to establish the context and foundation for creating an effective plan.
They must also be amenable to life events, as what was relevant a month ago may no longer be, depending upon circumstances. A good health coach can make adjustments to a plan on the fly and make it easy for a client to do so as well. The key to it all, however, is the involvement of the client. If they do not feel like they have ownership of the process, they will not have the motivation to carry through with any treatment planning.
Some of the reasons for creating a wellness plan include:
- To establish goals, both incrementally and end goals.
- To set guidelines for monitoring and making goal/objective adjustments.
- Provide structure and focus
- Allow for better documentation.
- To define the problem or issue.
- Describe the actions to be taken by the coach and client.
- Set a timeline for progress.
- Note important milestones and achievements.
The health coach doesn’t just ask what the client wants and then sit down to write up a wellness plan. Much like with any helping profession, it requires an appropriate understanding of the client through a thorough intake and assessment process.
One of the keys to developing a successful plan is rapport and trust with the client. This can be accomplished over the course of the intake and assessment process prior to planning. Motivational interviewing is helpful in this regard to help build a solid starting relationship with the client.
Another important part of the intake and assessment process requires sitting down with the client and coming to an agreed upon vision of what wellness means. If you don’t both have a similar end state in mind, then the coaching efforts won’t completely align with what the client is hoping to achieve. This can entail having the client define:
- Emotional wellness, including social relationships and overall stress levels.
- Physical wellness, including enjoying physical activities and overall bodily health.
- Spiritual wellness, including a sense of meaning and purpose
The types of information gathered and questions asked can and will vary depending upon the client. Certain questions can have as varying a response as the clients. The coach should be willing to adjust and amend the information gathering process based on how the client answers questions. Some of the questions one might ask the client include:
- Why is the client seeking coaching help?
- Current problems/issues.
- Any impairments or changes in mental/physical state due to the problems/issues.
- History of the problem (when, where, why, etc).
- How significant is the problem?
- What, if any, attempts have been made to solve the problem?
- The current state of home, school, work, relationships.
- Any history of physical/emotional issues.
- Current risk and safety concerns (appear to have mental issues, suicidal ideation, etc.).
- Current and previous medication or substance use (gather med details if indicated).
- Family/cultural background, socioeconomic level, other background info.
- Current presentation: grooming, hygiene, speech, mood, affect, etc.
- Self-concept (like/dislike).
Assessment tools can be a valuable asset to help the coach save time and make the pre-planning process more efficient. Here are a few examples of preset questionnaires for helping health coaches understand client needs:
- Basic Needs Satisfaction: Can help understand the motivation for change.
- Decisional Balance worksheet: A tool for the pros and cons of health-related change.
- Assessing Life Wants: Understanding health changes a client would like to see.
- Health Coaching Questionnaire: Capture which areas clients would like to work on.
- WDEP (Wants, Doing, Evaluation, and Planning) Questionnaire: Understanding what the client wants, what they have tried so far, and what they plan to do.
SelfDecode Pro offers done-for-you lifestyle assessments to evaluate a client’s health risks for a particular health topic. Health coaches can easily share with their clients, and the results will be automatically added to the client’s profile. Health coaches can also create custom intake forms to send to clients.
Depending upon what is bringing the client to the coach, this information might be simple or extensive. A client looking to improve on a specific health issue compared to one who is seeking a broader wellness regimen is going to generate different information and recommendations based upon that information.
A coach may also find that a client may come to coaching with one specific issue and find that it changes or branches off into several other issues. At any given time, for example, a coach may find they are helping clients with their:
- Diet and nutrition
- Fitness and exercise
- Stress management
- Weight management
- General health management
On a day-to-day basis, that translates into a potentially wide range of coaching tasks. SelfDecode Pro can assist with this assortment of tasks by offering custom health reports based on clients’ DNA, labs, and lifestyle data, and can help health coaches be more efficient when creating wellness plans for clients, potentially decreasing their treatment planning time.
Due to advances in AI and technology over the past decade or so, assessment of a person’s DNA has also become a viable and valuable tool to learn how a client’s genetic makeup may affect the presenting issues at hand or the kinds of coaching that may be most beneficial.
It should also be noted that, if at any time a client presents or exhibits what the coach feels are potentially specific mental health issues that could interfere with the ability to effectively coach, then appropriate referrals should be made.
A wellness plan is a joint document with the client. Once a thorough assessment is completed, a coach can generate some initial recommendations and formulate an initial draft of the wellness plan, but the completed plan should be a combined effort between the coach and the client. Without complete buy-in from the client, the wellness plan will never be fully effective.
Co-creating a wellness plan with the client is invaluable in providing a clear roadmap for the client, producing accountability and motivation, as well as a timetable for when, how, why, and by whom things will get done. The coach is not being paid to tell the client what to do.
So, rather than being prescriptive, the wellness plan becomes a tool to help guide the client along a path they feel responsible for creating.
In a general sense, the wellness plan should do the following:
- Identify and capture ways the client would like to work on improving their lifestyle
- Plan how to measure and track progress
- Figure out the support needed beyond the coach-client relationship
- Consider the client’s motivations
- Define obstacles that may get in the way of success
More specifically, a wellness plan should consider the following:
- The client’s personal information
- Intake and assessment information
- The client’s DNA and lab information
- The strengths and resources the client brings to treatment
- Client goals in order of priority
- Measurable objectives to achieve the prioritized goals
- A specific timeline and space to track progress toward objectives and goals
- A designation of who is responsible for which parts of the plan
- The contract between the coach and client that summarizes the goals, objectives, and responsibilities of the coaching
- The kinds of coaching that will be used to achieve the objectives/goals
The meat of the wellness plan is in the goals and objectives. This defines what the client wants to achieve and how they are going to do it. If the coach has put the work into intake and assessment, built a trusting relationship and partnership with the client, and transparently involved them in the whole process along the way, then the goals and objectives should feel very much like a mutual decision-making process. The client should feel ownership of and motivation for the wellness path that is chosen.
So what exactly are the goals and objectives, what should they do, and how should they be presented? In a general sense, the goals are what the client wants to achieve, and the objectives are the steps to get them there. They should, in a broader way, address the following:
- The client’s specific health or behavior issues.
- The changes needed to address the specified health/behavior issues.
- What the coach will do to help the client adopt new behaviors.
- What the client will do to accomplish the goals.
- The client supports that will be utilized to help them achieve their goals.
- What the given health issues/behaviors are that the client wants to address.
- When the objectives and goals should be met.
An effective method for establishing precisely what the goals should be is called the “SMART” method. The acronym stands for the following:
- Specific. The more clear and specific you can be, the better. Detail exactly what will be done by both the client and coach in each step (objective) of the process. It’s vital that the client has a clear understanding of every last one of these details.
- Measurable. It can be an amount of time, eating certain foods, exercising a certain number of times in a week, etc. The goal should be measurable in order to track progress and success.
- Attainable. Goals should push the client toward greater overall wellness, but they must be something that they are able and willing to attain within the given timeframe.
- Relevant. Attainment of the goal should matter to the client. Not only should the goal improve the client’s health, but they should actually want to pursue the goal.
- Time-bound. Giving goals and objectives within specific time constraints helps provide a sense of urgency and motivation for the client.
It should be noted (and can’t be stated enough) that failure to address underlying health issues/causes can interfere with achieving goals. Adequate intake/assessment is key to establishing root causes. If the coach doesn’t do this, it’s possible the established goals will not sufficiently help the client achieve success.
Much of the coaching sphere is taken from and influenced by the mental health field. This makes sense as they are interrelated, often dealing with similar issues and concerns. While mental health deals with treatment of specific, diagnosable problems, coaching typically looks at a whole health perspective. Mental health practitioners may coach a client, but coaches will not provide mental health services.
That said, the tools used share similarities, which is why treatment planning for mental health software is often borrowed for the coaching field. As mentioned before, a tool such as SelfDecode Pro can help health coaches decrease their treatment planning time and streamline their practice.
In order to create an effective wellness plan for clients, it is important for the health coach to thoroughly analyze all of the client’s health data. This process can be time-consuming, especially considering that there are millions of genetic variants and thousands of labs to consider.
With SelfDecode Pro, health coaches can easily analyze a client’s DNA, lab, and lifestyle data through personalized health reports and assessments. This wellness planning software allows health practitioners to create health regimens for each client by choosing from an AI-generated list of recommendations that takes into account all of their health data.
Other tools that may help coaches with planning for client wellness:
- Positive Psychology
When dealing with what is likely to be digital content in relation to coaching clients, it is paramount that the coach understands and addresses privacy concerns and ensures that any formats used are HIPAA compliant.
Building a wellness plan for clients requires health coaches to collect and analyze a vast amount of information, which can be time-consuming. There are tools available to help professionals go through this process seamlessly. Book a demo call today to see if SelfDecode Pro is the right wellness planning software for your practice.