Disclaimer: This article is a high-level overview of Amy Korn-Reavis’ observations in being both a health and wellness coach and clinical sleep health educator. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of AAST. The article previously ran in the Q4 2022 issue of A2Zzz.
When I became a sleep coach, I thought that the knowledge I’d gain from becoming a Certified Clinical Sleep Health (CCSH) certificant would be enough to guide me in my work with my clients. The certification, at its core, is about educating patients and holding them accountable. But I soon discovered this is not true at all — there is so much more to coaching than knowing about sleep.
When I sat for my CCSH certification, the focus for me was on understanding sleep and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) compliance, and how to communicate about treatment with one’s patients. The test itself encompasses care for several chronic diseases, including sleep issues, hypertension, obesity, cardiac issues and Type 2 diabetes. It also requires an understanding of different types of coaching models, change theory and motivational interviewing.
While the CCSH certification is a great base for sleep coaching, there are many other factors to successfully coaching a patient/client. This is where I find being a wellness coach in addition to a clinical sleep health educator is a valuable asset.
As a wellness coach, one needs to know not only how to create a care plan with your client/patient, similar to that of a CCSH coach, but also how to successfully help a client/patient establish specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals; and guide them in finding their own accountability, just to name a few. All of this requires a stronger understanding of how to cocreate a plan with your client/patient and having them create a system they want to and will follow. Without having the background knowledge and education from both the wellness coach perspective and the clinical sleep health educator perspective, I don’t think the care plans I’ve assisted my clients/patients with would be as successful or personal as they are.
As I was taking an education course to prepare for the CCSH exam, I began to understand that education is only a very small part of what coaching truly is. As we, the sleep community as a whole, move more into coaching as a profession, we need to understand where the client/patient is at related to their ability to create new habits and their desire to change — something that being a wellness coach has taught me time and again. This involves a deeper understanding of how to ask open-ended questions, listening to patient responses to said questions, listening to what patients have to say and also allowing them to make a plan on how to move forward, not just how to move forward with an assigned treatment plan.
We also must not forget to look at the comorbid conditions exhibited by patients so that we as coaches can weave these conditions into care plans. The idea being that you want your client/patient to not just be compliant with their sleep treatment but also compliant with their health and wellness needs such as medication, diet if they have Type 2 diabetes and movement if they need to add that to their day.
It’s important to keep in mind that coaching is so much more than just being an educator. It is a partnership between you and the client/patient in creating a foundation that will allow them to keep moving forward, even after you cease working with them.