by Alyssa Protsman, MS, CWP

Wellness practitioner working one-on-one with client

In the past decade we have seen a surge of wellness practitioners adopting a nuanced cognitive behavioral approach to helping others lead an intentional life to feel their best and function optimally in their current environment. More and more we are beginning to understand the power of the mind and how are beliefs and behaviors are intrinsically connected, calling for a greater emphasis on pursuing a holistic, whole-person approach that addresses cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social adaptations. This idea is well represented in self-management interventions focused on habit formation in coaching, clinical, community, and worksite settings.

Here is what the research tells us:

  1. Our social experience and primary relationships at work, at home, and in our community have a profound effect on our ability to sustain desired behaviors. Wellness practitioners can contribute to positive outcomes by serving as a conceptualizer, connector, coach, and champion for individuals in varying stages of behavior change. Studies also show social support may help alleviate the perceived burden of self-management in patients working to cope with chronic disease. Furthermore, the implications of group-based interventions and shared learning experience should continue to be studied and strengthened to maximize wellness program outcomes.
  2. The physical and virtual environment where an individual is subject to cognitive influence on behavior, including normalization of certain lifestyle behaviors by their peers, is a growing area of research that helps wellness practitioners better understand the importance of cultivating authenticity and self-awareness in addition to creating strategies for connection and communication. The profound influence that technology and social media have on a user’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors is also key when developing strategies for personal development and growth. On a personal level this might look like setting and holding boundaries that support the individual’s ability to sustain a certain behavior or mental state that aligns with their specific wellness goals (i.e., weight loss, addiction recovery, professional success, stress management). In a virtual age, we need to continue to evolve our concept of an individual’s built environment looks like and how to encourage strategic use that supports the client or patients’ lifestyle.
  3. The neuroscience of behavior change emphasizes the continued integration of mindfulness, emotional acceptance and regulation, as well as value-based interventions that lead to whole-person healing and lifestyle transformation. Wellness professionals, especially those working in counseling or functional medicine, who incorporate a cognitive behavioral approach to understanding the root of a person’s physical, emotional, and mental dis-ease may be able to experience greater health and wellness outcomes in their patients. By bringing the participant into the problem-solving process to identify root causes and tailored lifestyle solutions, the individual is more likely to become self-determined, committed, and confident in adopting and sustaining new behaviors.
  4. A whole-person wellness promotion practice is one where we shift from a limited scope of physical wellness to a multi-dimensional approach that affirms autonomy, justice, caring, and solidarity. Integrating all domains of the Wellness Promotion Competency Model have proven reliable results within individual and community applications. In all stages of wellness interventions, the practitioner should utilize responsive communication strategies like we see in self-discovery and motivational interviewing techniques with the goal of building self-efficacy toward authentic lifestyle modifications that align with the individual’s goals and values as well as their social and built environment.

To cultivate meaningful and sustainable change in a world where we are constantly bombarded with outside information and influence, wellness practitioners must be intentional in how they guide their participants through the self-discovery, cognitive restructuring, and behavior activation. When pursuing professional development, wellness professionals should consider opportunities that allow them to deepen their understanding and real-world application of the Wellness Promotion Competency Model to strengthen program outcomes and provide preparation for evolving industry demands. Promoting health and wellness education alone isn’t enough to move the needle.

Additional Resources:

Peterson, C., Ellery, J., Laube, T. et al. Validating the Wellness Promotion Competency Model: an Exploratory Factor Analysis. Int. Journal of Com. WB (2022).

Stenberg, N., & Furness, P. J. (2017). Living Well With a Long-Term Condition: Service Users’ Perspectives of a Self-Management Intervention. Qualitative health research, 27(4), 547–558.

Hughes, S., Lewis, S., Willis, K., Rogers, A., Wyke, S., & Smith, L. (2017). The experience of facilitators and participants of long term condition self-management group programmes: A qualitative synthesis. Patient education and counseling, 100(12), 2244–2254.

Karppinen, P., Oinas-Kukkonen, H., Alahäivälä, T., Jokelainen, T., Teeriniemi, A. M., Salonurmi, T., & Savolainen, M. J. (2018). Opportunities and challenges of behavior change support systems for enhancing habit formation: A qualitative study. Journal of biomedical informatics, 84, 82–92.

Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: tiny changes, remarkable results : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Britton, P. C., Patrick, H., Wenzel, A., & Williams, G. C. (2011). Integrating Motivational Interviewing and Self Determination Theory with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Prevent Suicide. Cognitive and behavioral practice18(1), 16–27.

Marker, I., & Norton, P. J. (2018). The efficacy of incorporating motivational interviewing to cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorders: A review and meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review62, 1–10.

Buchanan, D. R. (2000). An ethic for health promotion: Rethinking the sources of human well-being., Oxford University Press.