Research Paper By Gabrielle Gaillard
(Health/Pain Management Coach, UNITED STATES)
I started my career as a coach with one goal in mind. I wanted to help people find long-lasting results in their health management. I wanted to have a positive impact on the lives of people who have chronic disease and chronic pain issues. This research paper will explain why health management coaching is important to me personally, what health management coaching is, and if it is truly a viable option for people who suffer from chronic disease or chronic pain.
Why health management coaching in important to me. I started my career as a licensed massage therapist in 1997. I originally started my career as an LMT in all honesty because it was something, I was good with. I decided I wanted to learn how to do it effectively, so I went to school. At that time massage school was optional. When I was in school, I had a practice client that had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. After I gave her a massage, she came down the stairs with tears in her eyes. I was very concerned that I had done something to hurt her. She explained she had put on her pants for the first time with ease and without pain for the first time in months. I was hooked into the health care field! Many will call it alternative health care or complementary health care, caring for one’s health by allopathic ways or other ways is still health care. For the sake of this paper that will be the definition of health care. I started teaching massage in 2004 and found teaching and supporting students in their personal and career goals rewarding. I also began observing some patterns with my clients and students. Most clients and students would come to get a massage and expect to get fixed. Students and I, a veteran massage therapist, would get frustrated with not able to give the results clients wanted. They wanted long-lasting results but would not have the time or funds to get a massage regularly.
I also had some observations of people in general. The 1st observation, that age can be a factor in chronic pain and disease, but it truly is not a deciding factor. The 2nd observation, mental and spiritual health are also a factor in physical health. 3rd observation, to assist clients that have chronic issues find more peace and joy and get longer-lasting results, I need more information and education. Having my issues also allowed me to see that I too wanted others to fix me. These observations lead me on a journey. I needed a more active role to live a fuller and joy-filled life while dealing with my chronic issues. My journey leads me to a life coach in 2015. I realized after the death of my sister that my personal growth was stagnant and that if I truly wanted to get more out of life than what I was getting I needed help. I found coaching more rewarding than trying to do a thing on my own. I had been to mental health professionals and they helped, but this time I felt I need a different approach. I had suffered from depression for many years and new that I was not depressed, I was just stuck in a complacent and painful place in my life and I wanted more. I began to see a difference in my life. I started taking a more active role in my life and health. Coaching was opening my eyes to see things differently. I decided to go to coaching school after a good friend was killed in an accident. I had to hold space for many people going through their grief. I will share a brief history here- Richard Stamenga was a chiropractic doctor that I had shared office space with him for 18 years. He had been in practice for 40 years before he was killed in a motorcycle accident. He had worked with 1000’s of people and many felt he was a true healer. His death was a shock to his patients and the alternative health care field in my area. He was someone who made a big impact on many people’s lives. I was involved with having to keep his office open and dealing with explaining to people what had happened. I was so stuck in my grief I could not do anything but to hold space for his family, friends and especially his clients. There was no one else who could do it. His office staff was not able to handle it. This situation profoundly affected me. I had been thinking about joining the coaching area, this helped me decide that I could deal with people in high drama and pain in a different way, rather than trying to fix them just being with them was supportive.
As a licensed massage therapist of over 20 years, I have dealt with people in minor and major degrees of physical and mental stress. I use my knowledge of the body and kinesiology to figure out what was going on with my client. It was an action I was doing to the clients. That would provide temporary relief. I felt I was ill-equipped to help the clients have long term relief. A massage therapist can suggest a few things but are not allowed (according to our licensure) to help a client dive deep into their lives to help them set up a plan to achieve long term results. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that having a life coach helped me start to find a better life for myself. I signed up two months after his death. I decided I was ready to help others especially those with chronic health issues achieve more joy in their world.
Coaching is a pretty open concept right now. It compasses many different opinions and definitions. I am choosing to go with a general concept of what is coaching as defined by the International Coaching Federation. “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. An ICF coach agrees to practice the ICF core competencies and pledges accountability to the ICF code of ethics. A professional coaching relationship exists when a coach includes an agreement (including contracts) that define the responsibilities of each party.”(1) This definition gives all the power to the client. This is an important concept for many with chronic issues. Many may be telling them what to do, their physical issues demand attention and the feeling of loss of control and possible helplessness can set in. To get a clearer understanding of the issues the definition of chronic disease is important to study. This is the definition by the United States National Center for Health Statistics: “Chronic disease is a condition that lasts three months or more, chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear.”(2) This definition is general and can encompass my health-related issues. The term chronic pain can fall under this definition but has some distinct differences.In a website article on Medline Plus, they define chronic pain in this way: “The pain may last for weeks, months, or even years. The original cause may have been an injury or infection. There may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. In some cases, there is no clear cause. Environmental and psychological factors can make chronic pain worse(3)The chronic term, in general, had built into to its very definition terms like not curable, ongoing, and in the case of chronic pain can show up with no distinct cause, that can lead to feelings of loss of control.There is a wide variety of treatment as there are conditions. Medication and lifestyle change are the most common way to treat chronic issues. This is where a health management coach can come in. In a web article titled: Chronic pain: self-care plus conventional treatments help patients relieve or prevent chronic pain; Dr Karen Lawson provided some insight.Karen Lawson, MD, ABIHM, NBC-HWC, an expert in integrative health coaching said “Education and information alone don’t change behaviour. Coaching is about empowering patients and providing them with resources, support, and a plan.” (4)
What is health management coaching? The term Health Management Coaching means a coach that works with clients to manage whatever health care issues they may want help with. We especially work well with those who have chronic issues and chronic pain. We partner with the client in a way to start to view their physical issues differently. Together with the client find areas in their life that may need and want some changes. Together the client and the coach can discover their blocks to their health care or personal goals. If they want a health management coach can work with them to achieve successful compliance with what their health care practitioner has prescribed. We can support them to devise a plan, with defined action steps, that they can take toward the goals they want to achieve. We can provide an accountability partner and a cheerleader when it gets tough. In a web article written for family, practitioners defined health coaches in this way:“ Health coaching can be defined as helping patients gain the knowledge, skills, tools, and confidence to become active participants in their care so that they can reach their self-identified health goals.”(5)
Health Management coaching a clear option to improve quality of life? To my knowledge, there has not been a double-blind study that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt. What I have found is that there are many people including myself self that think it can. US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health has many research articles one with Fibromyalgia patients increasing the quality of life by 35%,(6). Another study with patients that suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 58% of the participants saw an improvement with the quality of their life. (7)These are just a few examples of many articles written that all are showing that coaching improves lives. PRN News wire announced that Pack Health, a health coaching company, announced on May 14, 2019, of a program funded by Community Health Care Foundation and Alabama Power foundation to work with patients who had been prescribed opioid medication. (8) An article in the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends employing a full-time health coach to improve patient care. This article goes on to talk about the monetary reasons that employing a health coach is beneficial. (9) This article was written in 2010, the coaching profession keeps growing and evolving as well as the medical field, maybe before long we will see more health coaches partnering with the medical profession to improve the quality of life for everyone.
When I decided to do go to school to become an effective coach, I spoke with several medical health professionals. All were very encouraging because they are also frustrated with what is currently happening in some health care settings. A friend of mine had a brother with severe back pain and could no longer get the pain medications he needed. He was told by the Doctor that he needs to try something else, maybe acupuncture, that there was nothing else the Doctor could do to help him. This is just one of the numerous people that are being told by medical professionals that they just could not help. It is not that they do not want to help they just do not have the time. A good friend of mine (a Hospice Nurse) talks about the term new normal. I like the fluidity of this term. It means every day we can set a new normal. I propose that Health Management Coaches work with people with chronic issues in the same way. Finding a quality of life that is a new normal.