University of Minnesota offers holistic health coaching program


MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota will be the first accredited four-year institution in the country to offer a graduate-level certificate concentration with a holistic focus and integration of complementary perspectives.

As we go through life, all of us will be faced with health challenges. Some are easier to handle; others are more complex. What if you’re diagnosed with diabetes and know nothing about the disease? What if you need to lose weight but just can’t stick to that exercise program? How do help find understanding for why a particular physical or emotional symptom occurs? How do you use what you know about yourself to lead the healthiest and happiest life?

Our current health care system isn’t geared towards giving us much guidance after a diagnosis. After leaving the doctor’s office visit, have you ever asked yourself “Now what do I do?” Sometimes you know that an issue won’t be helped in the conventional medical system. You find yourself wondering “Who do I talk to or where do I go?” Fortunately, there’s a new profession on the horizon that can help us answer those questions — Health Coaching — and it’s being taught at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing.

Through supportive, one-on-one guidance, university educated health coaches will help people learn to deal with life-altering health challenges or to just live healthier. While some health issues can be overcome alone, more profound diagnoses and challenges require a more personalized plan of care that health coaches provide. Many of us just need on-going relationship with someone who understands how to help make lifestyle changes, find ways to greater self-understanding, or make best choices within a broad field of therapies and practitioners. This personalized guidance can be offered in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, businesses and private practice.

Although health coaches do not diagnose or treat illness, they can assist with serious conditions to enhance clients’ health and promote positive lifestyle changes. This assistance includes the making of any necessary referrals and the gathering of a truly interdisciplinary healthcare team. Health Coaches have experience and understanding of a wide range of health care approaches, from both the conventional and complementary realms. They apply this knowledge through a lens of holism. Health coaches thus serve as both guides and facilitators, helping to educate individuals to take charge of their own health while also helping to establish support and resources.

Health coaches are trained to see each person as an individual whose mind, body and spirit are interwoven and key to health and wellness. Viewing their clients holistically allows health coaches to see each person as intrinsically healthy, whole and wise, and to regard the client, rather than the health care professional, as the ultimate expert in his or her own journey towards health and healing. Health coaches provide the professional expertise necessary to support this journey, and to help address the challenges that most of us will face in this life — pain, illness, change, growth, the search for meaning, and the building of relationships.

Given the need for scientific knowledge and interpersonal skills, the University of Minnesota’s certificate program is open to health care professionals or those currently enrolled in graduate health programs. Such fields include nursing, social work, psychology, medicine, nutrition, pharmacy, chiropractic and licensed acupuncture. Upon successful completion of the program, the recipient will receive a Certificate in Complementary Therapies and Healing Practices: Health Coaching Emphasis.

At a time when the number of people suffering from chronic illness — as well as the sky-rocketing cost of health care and the lack of access to adequate resources — threatens the stability of our society at every level, health coaching offers new hope. By emphasizing a health care model that is client-centered rather than disease-centered, and underscoring the importance of dialogue and deep listening, graduates of the Center for Spirituality and Healing’s certificate program will be able to empower others to make the kind of commitment to self-exploration and self-development that will ultimately allow them to achieve a better quality of health and life.

Applications for the Center’s Health Coaching program are now being accepted. If you are a business or employer who believes that Health Coaching services may be helpful for your employees, please contact Karen Lawson, M.D., at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at (612) 624-9459. To learn more about becoming a student, visit our website at, or contact Nancy Feinthel at the same number.

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