“A good working alliance between a health coach and client is an essential component of success.“
The relationship between coach and client is different from other social relationships, and boundary issues need careful and serious consideration as a CBT-Fitness Health Coaching, just as they do in other coaching practises related to health and fitness.
Fitness coaching boundaries provide a framework for appropriate roles for the coach and client, and include structural components – such as where, when and at what cost – as well as what happens in the session/workout between coach and client. The main principles that are common to all fitness coaching encounters:
- The client’s needs must have primacy.
- Gratification of the coaches needs (beyond professional satisfaction) is excluded from consideration in the coaching setting. (This includes using the client for social media “traction.”)
Coaching boundaries are set in such a way that the client can:
- Feel safe.
- Trust the coach to act in their best interest.
- Feel free to disclose sensitive material related to their health and fitness pursuits.
- Be confident that they understand and not judged by their coach.
In addition, the coach must also feel safe. The following guidelines for appropriate boundaries as a CBT-Fitness Health Coach are as follows:
- Refrain from self-seeking or personal gratification.
- Maintain confidentially unless it involves a significant risk to the safety of the client or others. Referral or emergency action plan may be needed. (Emergency Directory- which we teach in our certification course.)
- Evaluate the effect of a boundary violation on the client. Rather then adopting an absolute rule like ‘never accept a gift,’ consider the impact of such behaviour on the client and the coaching relationship.
- Do not express opinions about, or otherwise interfere in, aspects of the clients life other than those relevant to the formulation and goals of the fitness coaching sessions.
- Seek to increase the client’s independence and freedom to explore the choices available to them.
Find a client with whom you feel that boundaries are an issue. Reflect on the ways in which they are being stretched, and on what has contributed to the difficulties in maintaining more typical boundaries. Discuss this with another coach or comment below!
Gilbert, P. & Leahy R. (Eds) (2007). The therapeutic relationship in cognitive behavioural psychotherapies. Hove: Routledge.
Helen Kennerley. Joan Kirk. & David Wetbook (Ed 3). (2017). An introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Sage.