Category Archives: Health Coaching

A Vertical Development Lens for Health & Wellness Coaching

This article originally appeared on the Georgetown SCS News & Events page.

Imagine you’re a health and wellness coach, advising clients in a company’s wellness program or through your own private practice. What kind of things should you be telling them?

For starters: get at least eight hours of sleep a night and plenty of exercise. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and try to limit your use of alcohol and caffeine. On the mental health side, maintain strong relationships with those closest to you—your family and friends—but also reach out to others. And don’t forget about the power of meditation.

Why was that not helpful? It’s not that these suggestions aren’t valid—they are. But most of us pretty much know this already. What we might lack is not health information, said Christine Wahl, a Master Certified Coach (MCC) and instructor in Georgetown University’s certificate program in Health & Wellness Coaching. It’s the capacity to take that information and use it for our own mental, physical, and even spiritual well-being.

“What we’re trying to do at Georgetown is create educated coaches who understand the trajectory of adult development and see how health and wellness fits into that,” Wahl said. “How do you, as a coach, meet someone where they are, and not where you think they should be? How do you learn to deeply understand how your client is perceiving their issue, and not jump into a ‘fix it’ mode, but engage in learning that shifts mindsets and helps them move forward?”

Letting Go of “the Right Way”

Twenty-one years ago, Wahl founded Georgetown’s Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching program, which, like the Health & Wellness certificate, is part of the University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. Rather than focusing on what leaders need to know, the coaches’ program encourages would-be coaches to think critically about what they may have believed were the “right ways” to address an issue. Instead, Wahl said, the coaches learn to let go of their “right ways” and examine their own values, perspectives, and decision-making processes.

Interrupting one’s automatic reactions in ways like this is one key to self-knowledge. This means that coaching is not about “fixing” a problem: It’s about helping clients achieve a measure of awareness of their own that can help them address the issue themselves.

The Leadership Coaching and Health & Wellness Coaching programs both believe that the theory of Vertical Development is essential for anyone in the helping professions to understand. The theory posits that adults move “vertically” through several stages of development, moving from being dependent, to independent, to interdependent.

Not that everyone gets to the later stages. Moving through stages is a journey of identity, with self-knowledge increasing as you go. The coach’s job is to draw on the self-knowledge they acquired through the program to help discern where a client is on this spectrum and adjust their coaching accordingly.

“So, when you’re coaching somebody who is at one of the earlier stages, you need to know that hitting them with complex theories and complicated ways to manage their lives will never work,” Wahl said. “They need concrete suggestions and actions, and they need you to be the expert. Whereas somebody at a later stage might know exactly what they need to do and might need you to be more of a sounding board or thought partner, someone who could say, ‘You know, here’s the place you might be missing, based on what you just said.’”

Drawing on Georgetown’s Values

The 10th cohort of the Health & Wellness Coaching program begins this fall and continues with eight classes spread over six months. The program is the first to bring adult development tenets into its curriculum, which integrates with the primary focus of understanding chronic disease and how coaches can best guide their clients toward optimal health. During the program, students conduct multiple one-on-one and group health coaching sessions and receive feedback from faculty coaching advisors through a supervised practicum.

The program also draws from Georgetown’s core value of cura personalis, or “care for the whole person,” which calls on health practitioners to address the mind, body, and spirit of their clients. That directive has become even more relevant in the past few months as the COVID-19 virus has swept across the country. The program seeks to develop coaches who have the self-awareness, empathy, and resilience to navigate such a world—and help their clients navigate it as well.

“We want coaches to meet clients ‘where they are,’” Wahl said, “which is one of the most compassionate approaches a coach can manifest.”

Read more here from program director Petra Platzer, PhD NBC-HWC PCC, on Adult Development in Health & Wellness Coaching. 

To learn more about ITL’s Health & Wellness Coaching program, click here.

Educating the Whole Person

The Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL) has always derived great strength from the foundation on which it was built, Georgetown University and its Jesuit Heritage.  Today, the work of ITL is best captured in its mission: to develop and sustain worldwide communities of leaders dedicated to awakening, engaging, and supporting the leadership required to create a more sustainable, harmonious, and compassionate future.   In addition to offering educational programs that develop leaders, this mission speaks to our higher purpose and responsibility to prepare leaders who can address the issues that will lead to greater peace, environmental and economical sustainability, and a future in which human beings relate to one another with a caring approach consistent with Georgetown’s Jesuit values.

Connecting with and Embodying our Values

Each year, ITL chooses one of the Jesuit values as an area of curricular focus.  This year our focus will be the value of “Educating the Whole Person.”   We will explore this value through our programming, our community dialogue and in our classrooms.  By making these explicit connections, we will link our unique Jesuit and transformational missions to the learning experiences and outcomes of our students with a committed focus on the development of the intellectual, artistic, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of each person.

Mind, Body, Emotion, Spirit, Identity

While institutions of higher education are recognized for challenging and developing great minds, the mastery of leadership must address the whole person; mind, body, emotions, spirit, and identity.  Through our Certificate programs, advanced training, and professional workshops, the ITL curriculum guides participants to explore these rich domains and to develop continuous on-going practice and reflection on the life-long journey of leadership.

We look forward to engaging with our faculty, students, staff and community as we embrace our commitment and value of “Educating the Whole Person”.

Improving Patient Outcomes through Coaching

This post shared from Health and Wellness Coaching Co-director, Petra Platzer, PhD. 

Georgetown’s Health and Wellness Coaching (HWC) program, housed within the Institute for Transformational Leadership, is proud to acknowledge Cynthia Moore, MS, RD, CDE, FAND for being awarded a 1st place poster award for her research presented at the recent Institute of Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare conference in Boston.  As a former co-director and current guest speaker on the HWC faculty team, Cynthia continues to bring her expertise in diabetes and coaching into the clinical settings to improve patient outcomes.  Research-based work like Cynthia’s, and by other health and wellness coaches across the nation, continues to increase the understanding of the impact health and wellness coaches are facilitating for their clients.

In other big news, this past week a significant milestone was achieved for the HWC profession. The American Medical Association approved a new category III Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code for coaching that coaches can begin using in 2020 for reimbursement from insurance providers.1 The governing body of for the HWC field, the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC), was a key driver for this major advancement and will continue advocating for increased reimbursement models for coaching. This milestone acknowledges HWC’s role within the healthcare continuum and opens the door for increased access and further advances for HWCs within coordinated healthcare bundling of coaching.

ITL’s Health and Wellness coaching program is at the forefront of this emerging and exciting field.  If you are interested in learning more about how to become a practicing Health and Wellness coach or a member of our HWC community, please contact our enrollment staff at

Applications for the Spring 2020 cohort are now open, apply online.



A 90-Year-Old’s Rules For A Healthy And Happy Life

This post shared from Leadership Coaching faculty member Scott Eblin’s blog at  See the full version of the post here!

One of the more revealing regular features in The New York Times is a little story they run each week called Sunday Routine. In it, someone, usually famous or notable in some way, walks the reader through what a typical Sunday in New York City is like for them. Quite often they have packed so many activities into their Sunday that I leave with the impression that they’ve described their fantasy of a perfect day in New York rather than what they really do.

And then Stanley Turkel shared his Sunday Routine. You may be asking yourself, “Who is Stanley Turkel? Unless you work in the hotel industry, you probably haven’t heard of him. Alive and exceedingly well at age 90, Stanley spent a big part of his career building out the Sheraton Hotel chain around the world. Today, he’s working on his fifth book about the hotel business and is consulting to the industry on guest safety issues.

If you want to feel grateful for and inspired about life, you need to read Stanley’s story. I’ve read it about four times now and I learn something every time I read it. I’ve distilled those lessons down into Stanley’s Rules for a Happy and Healthy Life:

Have rituals – Stanley wakes up every day, including Sundays, at 6:30 AM. After he washes up, Stanley turns on his favorite classical music radio station and prepares his breakfast. He also looks at all of the pictures in his house of his children, grandchildren and his late wife, Rima, and says “good morning to my family.”

Eat well – Stanley has been very intentional about his diet for the past 50 years. For him, that means very little red meat and limiting his sugar intake.

Keep working – After breakfast, Stanley spends a few hours on his work. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it’s pretty clear that his work keeps him engaged with life and gives him a sense of purpose and contribution.

Keep learning – Stanley has a favorite Sunday lunch hang-out where he always reads through The New York Review of Books while he’s eating. He explains that the NYRB is his “favorite magazine of all time… It gives me exposure to new worlds.”

Have fun – After dinner, Stanley likes to watch the Golden State Warriors on TV because he thinks they’re “wonderful” and that the Knicks “aren’t very good.” He also enjoys baseball and follows the Yankees.

Learn more from Scott Eblin on >>

A Life Changing Decision to Feel and Perform Better

This post shared from Leadership Coaching faculty member Scott Eblin’s blog at  See the full version of the post here!

What if there were an inexpensive pill with no side effects that would cure many of your aches and pains, spark weight loss, give you more energy, leave you in a better mood, increase your mental focus, help you get more done and extend and improve your life? The good news is you can get all of those outcomes without ingesting anything new. It’s the opposite, actually. You just need to stop ingesting added sugar in what you eat or drink.

Of course, the “just” in that last sentence is a loaded word. As cited on a new website, developed by health scientists at the University of California at San Francisco, added sugar is found in 74% of packaged foods and the average American consumes 66 pounds of added sugar each year. Sugar is hidden in a lot of the things that most Americans eat.  There are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food and beverage labels. And, as you know if you’ve ever tried to stop eating it, sugar is highly addictive. Research shows that it is more addictive than cocaine. The more you eat, the more you want.

Sugar has been a hot topic in our house these past few months. Last Fall, Diane recognized that she was addicted to added sugar and decided to eliminate it from her diet. After listening to a panel discussion with Dr. Mark Hyman, the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and a couple of other experts on the On Being podcast, I decided to actively pay attention to what was going in my mouth. I’ve lost some weight, have more energy and focus and have noticed that my symptoms from MS are less prominent most of the time.

By eliminating sugar, we’ve made a life changing decision to feel and perform better.

And then, Diane and I proved to ourselves how well eliminating added sugar from our diets was actually working by driving the train off the rails. We were eating dinner in a restaurant hotel where we’re hosting a meeting later this year. The staff knew we were on a “recon mission” and treated us really well. Dinner was awesome and healthy. All was well and then the chef sent out come complimentary desserts. We didn’t want to be rude so we both ate some of the sugar-filled desserts. Boy, was that a mistake! After weeks or months away from sugar, we both felt awful after eating just some of the desserts. Neither of us slept well that night and we both felt bloated, achy, slow and groggy for days. We immediately got back on track the next day but it took awhile to get back to feeling the way we had before dessert.

It was a great reminder that we used to feel bloated, achy, slow and groggy fairly consistently and, now, we don’t. In Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, I write a lot about the physical, mental, relational and spiritual routines that help you show up at your best. For each of those domains of routines, I offer a “Killer App” that is a great place to start or go deeper if you’re only going to focus on one thing. In the physical domain, the Killer App is movement. I stand by that, but if I were to rewrite the book today, I would focus more on what you eat and how important it is to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. The good news, though, is that there are some great people offering guidance on how to do that. One of the best is Mark Hyman. If you’re ready to feel and perform better, take a look at his article on ten steps you can take to detox from sugar.

Learn more from Scott Eblin on >>