In the executive coaching and health programme we commonly use various words. Before we continue to explore the relationship between coaching and health it is important that we look at the terms as we are using them.
We use the word health to mean a person's mental and physical condition. An executive coach who integrates health into their coaching practice deliberately includes a person's mental and physical condition within the coaching relationship and conversation. They do not focus on health exclusively, although if a client wishes it can form a significant focus to the coaching for a while as necessary. The health of the client is seen as relevant and is included because of it’s influence on the brain and overall system of the person.
Wellness is a word that we use to describe the optimising of a person's mental and physical system within the individual circumstances and context of their lives. Wellness is the state to which it is hoped people arrive after some time spent in a process of recovery (see Recovery below). This optimising can increase susceptibility to illness, increase a person's energy; makes engagement in chosen activities enjoyable and effective; supports positive fulfilling relationships both personal and professional. It encourages development of potential, both physical and mental and influences emotions towards the positive ones of joy, trust and love.
A person in a wellness zone is maintaining their mental and physical system at a level that is providing them with optimal energy and personal resources to fulfill their purpose, commitments and relationships without unhealthy stress. Their brains are structured to manifest behaviours that are wellness reinforcing.
Optimising a person's system with them can be done in a number of ways by many different disciplines but is particularly useful when approached from coaching principals.
Sometimes people find themselves outside of what they consider to be a wellness zone. This may be called illness but may also be a significant loss of a component of wellness that may reduce their ability to function optimally but which is not defined as illness. For example too much stress will reduce functioning and wellness. Often this is flagged up to people by a crisis of some kind, for instance a diagnosis, anxiety attack or loss of performance. Once this is recognised, and if the person wishes to move back into a wellness zone then we can describe that journey back as ‘Recovery’. Successful recovery in behavioural health is correlated with successful behaviour change. And that successful behaviour change is correlated by changes in the brain. If a person has successfully managed to change their day to day thinking and behaviour to solve a behavioural health dilemma, they have been working on their brain, usually supported by other people who may be a mix of paid professionals or supportive friends and of course a coach.
To be able to complete tasks and functions to maximum effect and impact; to do them well without too much stress and in a sustainable way. Effective performance is built on wellness and robust health.
Treatment describes medical care that is given to a person for an illness or injury. To receive treatment a person can be in a state of resistance, indifference or active engagement. For purely non behaviour related medical treatments, for example a broken leg, it can be argued that it matters little what psychological condition a person is in provided they are willing to receive the treatment, i.e having the broken leg set in plaster. For behavioural health problems the medical profession now accepts and recognises it as crucial for a person to be engaged in the positive outcome of any treatment if that treatment is to be successful, i.e. for post treatment recovery to take place successfully. It is not an absolute that treatment precedes recovery. Where relapse of the condition is dependent on sustained and permanent behaviour change treatment is irrelevant. You could say then that the medical profession has moved into the area of behaviour change which it usually approaches from a diagnostic and remedy approach through therapies. What they share with coaching is that they all seek to elicit behaviour change.
Finally, recovery ought not be confused with treatment which, as stated above, is a medical intervention and which requires little or no behaviour change on the part of the person receiving treatment. Even where the treatment involves psychological interventions those interventions are directed to stimulating the willingness and desire to change from the person being treated. It is hoped in those scenarios that people will recover after the treatment intervention ceases.
Related Blog in Series: Why health, recovery and wellness is a game changer for executive coaching
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