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Care Coaching Helps People Change Behaviors for Healthy Lifestyles

A patient-centered approach to care coaching is based on a primary coach model where the same coach manages the person’s case from start to finish. A dedicated coach is able to build a trusted relationship with the person over time augmented with motivational inputs that help people stay on track with their plan to change behaviors, such as quitting smoking, losing weight or adopting an exercise routine.

The traditional roundtable model, where a person gets the next available coach in the queue puts the burden on them to explain to the coach where they are in the process and what they’re struggling with today in relation to the change program they’re in.

With a primary coach assigned—whether they need three sessions or 10—the person can get right to the issue at hand, knowing they will be immediately understood. Removing the burden of continuously needing to explain themselves to coaches they don’t know keeps motivation up and people more likely to stay on track with their program goals.

Programs that institute behavioral changes can present big, overwhelming goals for most people. Habits are difficult to break. Care coaching can work to make the goal more manageable by helping them to identify things they’re tripping over along the way. This ability to chunk bigger challenges into micro goals comes from the primary coaching model where the coach gets to know the person and their situation intimately through motivational interviewing.

Motivational Interviewing Helps People Take Control of Their Goal to Change

Behavioral change programs are initiated by doctors who want to see their patients develop healthier lifestyles. In a traditional doctor-to-patient relationship, the patient is always looking up to the authority of the doctor. Doctors dictate what’s right for the patient; in essence, pushing the solution on them.

Care coaches work on par with the person, meeting them where they’re at in a nonconfrontational manner.  Quitting smoking, changing eating preferences, or making exercise a habit; each requires big behavioral shifts. People are much more successful when they arrive at the decision to get there on their own and figure out how to take control over the change they want to make. Motivational interviewing helps them accomplish this by exploring and resolving ambivalence that stems from habits, fear and lack of knowledge.

Motivational interviewing uses open-ended questions, rather than the closed interrogatory questions used by doctors. The questioning asks the person to think about where they’re at in relation to the change they want to make. It creates an exploratory space for the person to examine the pros and cons of options as they relate to his or her specific situation. The coach asks about their fears and what’s going on their lives, as well as helping to uncover the goals of the person that will be most impacted by the behavioral change. In other words, helping the person to affirm the “why” about their choice to change based on what’s most important to them.

With these insights, the coach can educate the person on their options and leave the power of choice in how to achieve change up to them. A care coach essentially plays the role of a facilitator to help the person achieve self-efficacy—which is paramount to success. The person must own the change to succeed in reaching the goal of long-term change.

Much of a care coaches’ job is to ask open questions, listen carefully to what the person is saying and then provide reflections that show they understand what’s been said. Affirmations are much stronger than a compliment and let the person know that their coach has truly heard them and is applauding their efforts toward reaching goals. Motivational interviewing places a strong emphasis on positive reinforcement and the assumption that collaborative relationships—rather than coercion—will result in behavioral change

Behavioral Change Programs Work Best with Dedicated Coaching

Those who do seek out care coaching as a support system for behavioral change are found to be more successful in making their new habit a permanent part of their lives than those who pursue conventional approaches. The key to a successful program appears to be having a primary coach who is dedicated to the person throughout their change process by maintaining close contact and an understanding of the person’s situation to provide the appropriate encouragement and affirmation.

Without question, behavioral change is difficult and relapses are frequent. However, providing a program based on care coaching that uses dedicated coaches and motivational interviewing techniques to help people gain the resources, support, and advice they need to change is gaining more successful outcomes than other methods. SYKES provides customized care coaching programs to governments, employers and healthcare providers that have proven success in helping people to create lasting change for healthy lifestyles.

Author: Todd Aldrich, SYKES, Vice President of Operations, oversees client relations and operations for the Telehealth division. This division leverages a national contact center infrastructure staffed by healthcare professionals that help more than 1 million people each year to understand and reach the most appropriate care to deal with their situation. Additional programs focus on establishing proactive lifestyle programs to help people with smoking cessation, diet, physical activity, and mental health.

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