Motivational Interviewing as a Health Coach

Test Your Skills!
Is this a Motivational Health Coaching Conversation?

Woman on phone motivational interviewing as a health coach

My Health Risk Assessment (HRA) automatically resulted in me being placed on the "Needs a Health Coach" list by my spouse's work insurance. I received an email invitation and agreed to be "coached." I accepted the call primarily out of curiosity, but I was also quite interested in possibly attaining some new revelation about me that would help.

I'm a health coach and a clinical nurse specialist, but I decided it wouldn't hurt me and my cholesterol to receive a bit of health coaching from another. I'm always open to conversations about my health and with my history of cardiac surgery as a child, I began to look forward to the call.

The Call

After exchanging pleasantries, my health coach began to tell me all the things I needed to do to lower my cholesterol. Here is the conversation re-visited below.



Health Coach (HC): "Hi, Ms. Huffman. I'm June (fictitious name) calling for your health coaching call. How are you?'

Me: "I'm well, thank you; and you?"

HC: "I'm good."

HC: "I noticed that your cholesterol is higher than we'd like to see it."



Me: "Yes, while it's not terribly high, I do have it running slightly above 200. I did have it down below 200 a couple of times, but I'm not happy with it where it is. That's why I agreed to have this call. I'm glad to talk with you."

Coach: "We have a low cholesterol foods list that I've uploaded to your family's portal online."

Me: "Thank you. I do have a foods list."

Coach: "Great. This one might help you, too. Sometimes some foods are on one list that aren't on the

other. This will give you a better well-rounded list of foods."



Me: "Yes, I'm aware of high cholesterol foods, but thank you for the list."

Coach: "I noticed on your HRA that you exercise regularly; walking in particular?"

Me: "Yes, walking on average 6 days/a week, rain or shine."


Coach: "Well that's good. Where do you walk?"

Me: "There's a track near my house. I enjoy it, but unfortunately, it hasn't helped much considering how

often I walk."



Coach: "Well. these things take time. With the right diet and exercise, eventually, it should start to come

down. Don't give up. Keep walking and try to eat right. It's hard, but it can be done. I noticed also

that your mother had high cholesterol. Genes have a way of wreaking havoc, you know."

Me: "Yes, they certainly can."

Coach: "Well, like I said, don't give up. You're trying, and that's the most important thing."


Before the 15 minute-call ended, we engaged briefly in light social conversation, and she shared that she had a degree in biology and that she likes working with people and teaching them about their health. She didn't ask about my background, so I didn't share this. We ended the call with goodbyes with the only follow up being that I would call if I needed further guidance.

Health Coaching Conversation

With no engagement related to the dilemma I faced, I wondered, "How many people engage in this type of encounter and refer to it as "health coaching?"





  1. 1. How would you describe this type of call? Teaching? Coaching? Telling?
  2. 2. What opportunities were missed by the health coach?
  3. 3. What skills should have been used that were not?
  4. 4. How should the call have ended?




Answers below...


Question 1. Telling.. and lots of it


Question 2.

  • · No open-ended questions to identify ambivalence or the dilemma
  • · Gave information without identifying what the coachee already knew
  • · Didn't inquire as to what the coachee wanted to discuss.
  • · No exploration of the coachee's concerns


Question 3.

  • · Motivational interviewing
  • · Asking permission
  • · Guiding the agenda


Question 4. Summarizing the call and setting the agenda for the follow-up




How did you do?

Questions about NSHC's Certification? Call us! 888-838-1260


Melinda Huffman, BSN, MSN,CCNS, CHC


The National Society of Health Coaches

Learn More: 

Motivational Interviewing

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

How to do Motivational Interviewing

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