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How to Choose the Right Professional to Help Meet Your Goals

Lifestyle change is difficult work and often requires the support of others. When undertaking a major life change, it is generally important to seek the assistance and guidance of professionals to encourage you and equip you with new tools and information to help.

When trying to lose weight, change eating habits, or increase exercise, you may need a coach, therapist, trainer, and/or a nutritionist, all of whom can help you in different ways. Even better, you can assemble a team of professionals that surround you with support, information, tools, and techniques to get your best results.

Coach: A coach collaborates with you to help you achieve the goals that you set through a structured, solution-focused process. Coaching differs from traditional therapy in that the focus is on what can be done today to improve your future, rather than working through the difficulties of the past or the present. Coaching generally involves homework and accountability and coaches are often able to be more flexible in working with clients over the phone or online.

Therapist: A therapist can help you in the same ways that a coach may; however, a therapist may also be able to help you process events or emotions of the past, including things that may be contributing to your current difficulty. Working with a therapist may be important if your habit change involves an eating disorder, trauma, or any anxiety or mood symptoms that interfere with your daily life.

Personal trainer: A personal trainer can focus on your physical fitness by creating an exercise routine, teaching you proper form, holding you accountable, and monitoring your progress. A physical therapist or masseuse may be important if you develop any exercise-related injuries. Be sure that your personal trainer is certified by an accredited certification program, as it is not against the law to market yourself as a trainer with absolutely no schooling or experience.

Nutritionist: A nutritionist or registered dietitian can help you create a healthy food plan that works for you and adjust it based on your personal needs.

Primary medical provider: Your primary medical provider can monitor your health and medication needs. Please always consult your PMP before adjusting any medications. While a PMP may prescribe anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, or anti-psychotic medications in most states, a psychiatrist may be more appropriate for monitoring those medications.

When choosing a professional with whom to work, the most important thing to keep in mind is your comfort. You are unlikely to follow through with suggestions, or even return to a professional, that you are not sure you trust. The best way to make this judgement is to meet with the professional face to face.

Other things to keep in mind are convenience, so find out if the professional offers appointments at times that will work with your schedule and what type of payment he or she accepts. Although cost should be low on the list of determining factors, it is something that can make a difference on your ability to work with a specific professional. Location is another important aspect of convenience for you to consider. Don’t forget to ask if there are costs for phone and email contact and ask how long the professional has been practicing and how many similar cases have they had to yours, and whether they would consider them successful. Don’t be afraid to ask for references.

If you are creating a team of professionals for yourself, it is important to know how willing each is to work with others and how they may communicate. Lastly, personal experience overcoming the same problem you are facing is something that many appreciate in a professional with whom they are working; however, his or her experience may be different from yours. The empathy may be helpful, but if the approach is limited to what worked for him or her, you may not get the best help possible.

September 2nd, 2010

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