Health Coaches vs Life Coaches: What's the Difference?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the professions of health coaching and life coaching. Some people use the terms interchangeably, while others see them as completely different disciplines. So, what's the difference? And when should you choose to work with a life coach rather than a health coach and vice versa?

a health coach taking notes during a health coaching session

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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any health program.

What is a health coach?

A health coach is a professional who works with clients to help them reach their health and wellness goals. They typically have a background surrounding health and wellness, and they use evidence-based methods to help their clients make lifestyle changes that will lead to improved health. Health coaches oftentimes have credentials in other health-related fields as well, such as nutrition, psychology, or fitness in which they may also provide guidance on healthy eating, exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle factors that can impact health.

Some of the main skills of a health coach include:

  • Behavioral change
  • Goal setting
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Action planning
  • Positive psychology and more

A qualified health coach will also have a deep understanding of how chronic disease develops and the lifestyle factors that can influence its progression. This allows them to not only help their clients improve their health, but also prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease.

Health coaching is an emerging field, and there are currently no regulations or certification requirements in place in the United States. However, many health coaches are completing health coaching programs that are accredited by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). The NBHWC offers the only nationally-recognized certification for health coaches. To be certified by the NBHWC, candidates must complete a rigorous exam that covers all aspects of health coaching so they can be sure they are knowledgeable and prepared to help their clients achieve their health goals. Learn more about how the NBHWC is setting the standard for the health coaching industry.

Example of working with a health coach:

Let's say you have been trying to change your eating habits to improve your overall health, but you have struggled with making the necessary changes. A health coach will help you identify the barriers that are preventing you from making these changes and work with you to develop an action plan to overcome them. They'll also be by your side to support and encourage you as you make these lifestyle changes and point out things that you may be doing well and things that you could improve upon.

It is important to understand that health coaches are not doctors or therapists (unless they hold those credentials) and they cannot diagnose or treat conditions. If you are dealing with a chronic health condition, it may be wise to consult with your doctor before beginning to work with a health coach.

What is a life coach?

A life coach is a professional who helps clients achieve their personal and professional goals. Unlike health coaches, life coaches do not need to have a background in health and wellness. Life coaches typically work with clients on goal-setting, time management, decision-making, and other life skills that can help them to achieve their desired outcomes. They may also provide support and accountability to help their clients stay on track.

Some of the main skills of a life coach include:

  • Helping clients set and achieve goals
  • Teaching life skills such as time management and decision-making
  • Providing support and accountability
  • Motivating clients to reach their full potential and more

A life coach can help in many areas of your life that you want to improve. Some common areas that life coaches work on with their clients include career, relationships, finances, and personal growth.

Like health coaching, life coaching is also an unregulated field. There are currently no certification or licensure requirements in place in the United States. However, many life coaches are obtaining their life coach certification through professional coaching organizations, such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The ICF is the largest global coaching organization and offers several different levels of certification. To become an ICF-certified coach, candidates must complete extensive training and pass an exam.

Example of working with a life coach:

Imagine you've been stuck in a career that you dislike and you're not sure how to move forward. You've been thinking about making a change for a while, but you're unsure of what you want to do or how to take the first steps. This is where a life coach can help. A life coach will help you clarify your goals and create a plan to achieve them. They will also provide support and accountability throughout the process to help you stay on track.

This is just one example, but there are many different scenarios where life coaching can be helpful.

It is important to note that life coaching is not therapy. Life coaches do not diagnose or treat mental health conditions. If you're experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, you should seek treatment from a mental health professional.

So, what's the difference between a health coach and a life coach?

The main difference between health coaches and life coaches is the focus of their work. Health coaches typically take a holistic approach and help clients improve their physical, mental, and sometimes spiritual wellbeing, while life coaches help clients achieve their personal and professional goals. However, both types of coaches use similar methods, such as goal-setting, positive psychology, and support and accountability, to help their clients reach their desired outcomes.

Please understand that there are overlaps between life coaching and health coaching. Some life coaches may have a background in health and wellness, while some health coaches may help their clients with personal and professional goals.

When to choose a health coach vs. a life coach

Both life coaches and health coaches can help you improve your life, but it's important to choose the right one for your needs. Consider your goals and what you hope to achieve before making a decision.

If you're looking to improve your physical health, such as losing weight, eating healthier, or increasing your fitness level, then a health coach may be the best choice for you.

If you have more general life goals that you want to achieve, such as changing careers, improving your relationships, or increasing your self-confidence, then a life coach may be a better option.

The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a health coach and a life coach. It ultimately depends on your individual needs and goals. Talk to each type of coach to see which one would be a better fit for you.

Still not sure which one to choose? Consider working with a health coach who also has experience as a life coach. This way, you can get the best of both worlds and focus on achieving all of your goals!

Another option is to try both and see which one you prefer. Some coaches offer free or discounted initial consultations, so this is a great way to get started.


No matter what you decide, remember that coaching is an investment in yourself and your future. Choosing to work with a coach is a sign that you're ready to make positive changes in your life and reach your full potential. So, take your time, do your research, and find the coach that's right for you.

If you are looking for a qualified health coach, you can easily find one by searching our database. Our directory includes only certified health coaches from accredited health coaching programs so you can be sure you are connecting with a qualified professional.

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