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Table 1 The included studies

From: Can life coaching improve health outcomes? – A systematic review of intervention studies

Author Design Aim Population Intervention/duration Coaching method Coach education Patient outcome
Ammentorp et al. 2013. Case study using a combination of methods. To investigate whether or not coaching offered to a group of poorly controlled adolescents with diabetes could improve their self-image, responsibility, and metabolic control. 9 adolescents between 16 and 19 years of age with poorly controlled diabetes for the past 2 years. The coaching program included: 2 group coaching sessions with all participants and the coaches (4 hours each) 5 individual face-to-face coaching sessions; and 3 telephone coaching sessions. The individual coaching sessions with the personal coach lasted approximately 1½ hours. The coaching was based on a co-active coaching model.
To guide the clients through the process, a Pro-Active Plan for each of the patients was used. The plan included different tools that the adolescent could use as homework, such as: a) “The wheel of life,” by which different aspects of life can be rated, or b) templates for writing down barriers, resources, and the adolescents’ values, goals, milestones, and action plans.
The coaching was conducted by three professional certified coaches with no connection to health service.
Before the study started the coaches were introduced to the most common medical terms used in diabetic care.
The mean HbA1c decreased from 11.089% from before coaching to 9.961% (p=0.03) at the end of coaching, but increased slightly 6 months later (10.278% (p=0.047)).
The themes generated from the interviews with the adolescent were: “The experience of being met”; “Looking at myself and my diabetes in a new way”; “More self-esteem and more energy”; and “New tools to change routines”.
Galantino et al. 2009 Pre-post intervention study. To evaluate the immediate and longitudinal impact of 6 wellness coaching sessions for cancer survivors in improving health, fitness, well-being, and overall quality of life. 20 cancer survivors between 35–76 years who ranged between 0.5- 9 years since primary treatment ended. Telephone coaching that included an initial session lasting 90 minutes and 5 follow up sessions completed over a three-month span lasting 30–40 minutes each. Wellness coaching (WC) is described as a humanistic, growth-promoting relationship designed for constructive development.
It is focusing on what matters most for the patients and on creating a vision and a realistic plan that works within the framework of the patient’s life, enlisting the individual as their own expert.
Initially the patients were guided to develop a wellness vision and a behavioural plan. The follow up sessions included reflection of the plan and coaching around any areas of concern.
The coach was an ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist and certified Wellcoach who was also a breast cancer survivor. Compared with baseline, the study showed significant improvement in overall quality of life, decreased depression and anxiety, as well as improvement in exercise stage at the completion of the three-month intervention.
After 12 months, a slight decline was seen, but did not return to baseline.
Non-significant improvements were observed in self-reported physical activity, fruit/vegetable consumption and BMI.
Izumi et al. 2007 Hayashi et al. 2008 a) Randomized controlled trial. Pilot study.
b) A qualitative descriptive sub-study.
a) To examine the effect of coaching intervention on psychological adjustment to illness and health-related QOL (HRQOL).
b) To analyze and describe subjective evaluations of coaches and intervention subjects on the functions of tele-coaching intervention.
a) 24 patients with spinocerebellar degeneration 20–65 years of age without cognitive impairment or psychiatric disorder. 10 weekly telephone coaching sessions of 15–30 minutes over 3 months. The coaching intervention was designed to help the patients improve their performance through enhancing psychological adjustment to illness.
The process of coaching consisted of six steps: set-up; goal-setting; evaluation of present status; acknowledgement of the gap between the goal and the present status; action-planning to overcome the gap; and follow-up.
The three coaches were experienced physicians (practiced for 19–21 years) trained and supervised by certified coaches.
The coaches had experiences with tele-coaching and had been trained in narrative therapy techniques.
To control the quality of the coaching, each coach received feedback from patients after sessions 4 and 8 in a survey regarding the attitudes and skills of the coach. Weekly telephone conferences were conducted among the coaches.
a) No statistically significant differences were found between the control and intervention groups. At follow-up, the coaching group had significantly better self-efficacy scores than the control group.
b) The tele-coaching enabled patients to tell their own stories in a daily-life setting, encouraged them to experience and adopt fresh points of view, and helped them to start working towards attainable goals without giving up.
Schneider et al. 2011 An intervention study using mixed methods. To examine how individuals with diabetes perceived life coaching and person-centered planning as an intervention to maintain employment and manage chronic health issues. 108 participants between 18 and 62 years of age with a diagnosis of diabetes, pre-diabetes, or a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) > 6.5%; and work at least 40 hours in the preceding month at the federal minimum wage or higher. Approx. 11 life coach sessions per participant over a 1-year period. Mostly in-person coaching sessions lasting approx. 1 hour. Some telephone coaching sessions, lasting approx. 40 minutes, in addition to a few online sessions lasting 2 hours. Life coaching was defined as a method by which the client has full control over the topics of the conversation.
The main function of the life coach was to assist participants to set and achieve work, health, and personal goals by using SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed) goals.
Coaches received training in motivational interviewing, the trans-theoretical model (stages of change), and a comprehensive coaching curriculum. The patients reported high satisfaction with life coaching.
The majority of goals were fully or partially achieved (self-reported).
Wolever et al. 2010 Randomized controlled trial. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of integrative health (IH) coaching on psychosocial factors, behaviour change, and glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. 56 patients at least 18 years of age with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes for at least 1 year and taking oral diabetes medication for at least 1 year. 14 telephone coaching sessions of 30 minutes (8 weekly sessions, 4 biweekly sessions, and 1 final session a month later). Integrative health coaching (IH) is defined as a personalized intervention that assists people in identifying their own values and vision of health.
Patients were guided in creating a vision of health, and long-term goals aligned with that vision were discussed. The Wheel of Life was used to explore values, establish priorities, and set goals.
Two coaches that were trained in coaching methods and had master’s-level degrees in social work or psychology.
Each coach had > 100 hours of experience with coaching diabetes patients.
Compared with baseline, the patients with elevated baseline HbA1c (≥7%) significantly reduced their HbA1c in the intervention group, but not in the control group.
Compared with the control group, the coaching group reported that barriers to medication adherence decreased while exercise frequency, stress, and perceived health status increased.