It is well known that the pandemic has exacerbated mental health struggles across the globe, mostly related to depression, anxiety, chronic fear and stress, isolation, and family, community, and country division. As a result, demand for psychological and therapeutic services has risen, however, there is a dramatic shortage of licensed therapists in the U.S. and beyond.
Due to findings in recent research, certified professional mental health coaches have taken the opportunity to help meet the demand for these services over the past few years. Coaches are trained in their limitations and realize they are not providing clinical level mental health therapy. This blog will discuss research related to the effectiveness of mental health coaches and the populations that have benefitted from their services throughout the pandemic and beyond.
In an article on CBC News, Dr. Nafissa Ismail, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa stated, "We have reached a historic moment where the demand is so high, but the services are not there, and now we cannot, in just the span of a week or even a month, all of a sudden make these services appear and available to the population.” In this same article Carole Blackburn, who has been a Life Coach for 5 years stated,
"In the pandemic, people have definitely looked for other ways to seek out help, and a lot of the time with mental health, it's all about a deeper connection."
Recent studies have shown that certified mental health coaches are effective for filling the gaps in the mental health system. Myra Altman, Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today that Certified coaches trained in evidence-based mental health approaches are on par with therapists and can help to fill the gap in services. Evidence shows that subclinical providers can be effective in treating depression and other mental health challenges. Some of the most respected concepts in clinical therapy—like cognitive behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy—can be applied by paraprofessionals to great effect, with outcomes comparable to professionals.
In an article in Modern Health, in a peer-reviewed study just accepted for publication at the Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science, 58 percent of people who started care with symptoms of depression experienced clinical recovery after at least one session with a certified coach and saw a 76 percent increase in their well-being overall. These findings build upon our previous published research showing the more sessions people participated in, the more their well-being improved. This research found that in a one-on-one virtual care setting, therapeutic alliance was just as strong between clients and their coaches as it was between clients and their therapists (with an average 4.8 therapeutic alliance rating out of 5 for both coaching and therapy). Ninety percent of participants were confident in their coach or therapist’s ability to help them and work on agreed-upon goals, and in both cases, a stronger therapeutic alliance predicted greater improvement in well-being.
"[Psychologists] focus more on things like deep-rooted issues, trauma, some stuff from childhood, whereas life coaching …. it's more about the everyday working on your daily habits and building on your mindset." - Allie Sevani
Mental health coaches have been proven to be successful in helping clients maintain resilience in life changing situations such as the pandemic. Furthermore, the open minded, empathetic demeanour of a mental health coach, has supported clients in building comfort and trust with their certified coach. This has resulted in a greater outcome for success in improved mental health.
This may be good news for the entire field and suggests that mental health coaching could be a viable alternative to therapy for moderate mental health needs. When trained and vetted, coaches can provide similar-quality care that improves mental health outcomes while simultaneously being more affordable in many cases.
Mental health coaches filling conventional healthcare gaps for minorities
During the pandemic, there has been enlightenment on the struggles of building trust and rapport with minority groups. These individuals have often been neglected, and suffer poorer quality care, additionally lacking accessibility to health services. Mental health coaching has become a beneficial alternative for those whose background unjustly disrupts their chances of speaking with a professional. Furthermore, studies show that mental health coaches have found a unique opportunity to “bridge the schism of trust” in minority groups.
Health coaching is available for minorities who have experienced health neglect, financial restraint, and lacking resources within conventional health systems. Furthermore, coaches have helped build resilience and support throughout the pandemic and into the future.
Filling conventional healthcare gaps for parents and children
Dr. Sandra Scheinbaum, noted in Forbes Magazine (2022) that many parents/caregivers with young children and teens have had to spend the pandemic parenting their children while working remotely at the same time, creating the formula for unimaginable stress. Mental health coaches have been able to help families work through their unique situations through remote channels, working on problem solving, stress management techniques, and devising coping skills. Whether it be help for a specific audience, or the whole family, a mental health coach is able to help encourage change and harmony in the home environment.
Geriatric Health Coaching
Dr. Scheinbaum (2022) also noted that the older population has suffered throughout the pandemic, as they have a much higher risk of severe consequences and additional conditions to cope with. Fortunately, mental health coaches have been able to help support this population through understanding their unique situations, providing insight to help cope with depression and loneliness, helping to build independence while encouraging them to stay connected to family and friends whenever possible. Integrative health coaches have been able to help elderly clients live healthier and happier lives.
Certified mental health coaches at Nickerson Institute are trained using the biopsychosocial-spiritual model. Training involves cognitive-behavioral and rational-emotive techniques, motivational interviewing, suicide prevention, mind-body illnesses, mindfulness-based interventions, spiritual evolution, behavioral nutrition, complex trauma, teenagers and substance usage, helping individuals die peacefully, ethics, interpersonal attunement, and much more.