Everything you need to know about mental health coaching

Posted: April 23, 2024 | Word Count: 1,047

You've probably heard of life coaches and sports coaches, but how about mental health coaches? Just like it sounds, they take an active, goal-oriented approach to providing mental health support when you're coping with difficulties and life challenges that may not require the support of a therapist.

"Mental health coaches work collaboratively with members to develop customized care plans full of useful guidance and tools to help you get through tough times — or to improve your routines and outlook to help you reach your goals," said Jenna Glover, Ph.D., Chief Clinical Officer at Headspace. "Mental health coaching also provides a less expensive, more accessible option to improve your well-being, positively impacting the way you show up in life and for those around you."

The mental health app Headspace now offers mental health coaching through a subscription plan, making it convenient for anyone needing support to develop healthier habits, address various challenges or achieve specific goals. All Headspace mental health coaches have either completed the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) Approved Training Program or have earned a Master's-level degree in a psychology related field. Every Headspace coach has over two years of relevant work experience, 200+ hours of supervised training, and participates in weekly continuing education training offered through the Headspace Training Institute's Mental Health Coach Training Program.

Here's what you need to know about mental health coaching, how it differs from therapy, and how it can help you navigate everyday challenges.

Therapy versus mental health coaching

While both therapy and coaching can provide mental health support, therapy may make more sense for those dealing with acute mental health issues, or for those seeking assessment for a clinical diagnosis. In practice, therapy uses knowledge gained from exploring past behavior and experiences to address mental health concerns.

Mental health coaching is forward-looking and action-oriented by design. Coaches focus individuals on setting realistic goals, taking steps toward creating new habits — drawing from clinically validated techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) — and holding individuals accountable to their goals with strategies like SMART goal setting. When it comes to Headspace's coaches, each coach is trained to identify topics or concerns that may require the attention of a therapist or psychiatrist.

The most popular uses for mental health coaching are:

Getting more restful sleep

According to the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 3 adults don't get the sleep they need for optimal health. You can consult with a mental health coach to explore practical ideas for improving the quantity and quality of your sleep.

"Fortunately, there are many methods to help prepare your mind for rest and fall asleep more easily," said Chris Jeter, Mental Health Coach at Headspace. "A coach may suggest creating a better sleep environment, setting aside dedicated time to focus on things that may be keeping you up at night, listening to restful music, exploring sleep workshops or lectures, and exploring mindfulness and meditation practices during the day or before bed, depending on the individual."

Coping with grief and loss

Grief and loss are part of life, whether you've lost a loved one or a pet, your job or any other loss. Having a mental health coach can help you develop goals focused on navigating your experience with grief that uncover a healthier way forward.

"Everyone's experience with grief is different, and it's not linear," said Jeter. "If grief is interfering with your ability to function, you may benefit from practical tips for self-care and how to focus on tasks to get through your day — plus ways to ask for help from friends and loved ones when you need it.”

Managing stress, anxiety and burnout

While some levels of stress and anxiety are common, high levels of those emotions — plus burnout — can prevent you from being effective in your job or enjoying parts of life that normally bring you joy. The good news is, a mental health coach can help you identify steps to better regulate your emotions.

"Mental health coaches can offer practices proven to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety, including meditation, exercise, breathwork and spending time in nature," said Jeter.

Navigating major life changes

Life is full of change, and even when changes are positive — getting married, starting a new job or moving — stress and uncertainty can follow. A mental health coach can help you develop strategies for navigating those changes in a healthier way.

"Coming up with goals that are 'SMART' — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound — can help improve how you cope with change," Jeter explained. "Coaches can also support with accountability and celebration. Setting goals is sometimes easy, and one great element of coaching is the ability for members to have support in navigating the challenges that come with change."

Improving emotional resilience

Resilience is the process of responding to life's challenges. Having a coach to talk with can support you in identifying strengths that can aid in successfully navigating life's challenges. To become more resilient, it helps to have someone who can talk through a change in your perspective.

"A mental health coach can ask questions to help you think in a new way," said Jeter. "At Headspace, our members are always in the driver's seat, and the coach is here for support along the way. For example, helping to uncover how our members may have coped with past hardships can help them discover techniques that may work in your current circumstances — and help to empower them to put those techniques into practice.”

Building healthier relationships

Healthy relationships create support systems that contribute to resilience, aid in moments of difficulty, and enhance happiness. If you're struggling with any of your relationships, a mental health coach can offer a neutral, third-party perspective and as an active listener, they can allow you to reflect, feel empathized with and heard, while providing new ways of thinking about and communicating with others.

"For help improving your relationships, it's very useful to talk with a coach about issues like communication and identifying personal values," said Jeter. "Practicing techniques like active listening for better communication with anyone in your life makes a big difference. Also, identifying personal values can create a guide for selecting the types of relationships you'd find supportive."

Learn how mental health coaching can help you at Headspace.com/coaching.

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