by Trina Laube, CWP and Suzanne Hunt, MPH, CHC, CWP

This is the first article in a six-part series on the role of competencies in wellness promotion.

Wellness continues to expand across multiple inter-disciplinary fields and evolve with new research, interests, and opportunities that span the globe. Thus, it is imperative that professionals integrating wellness practices into their work have a common understanding of the competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) required to effectively support holistic wellness efforts and cultivate positive change.

Credible, evidence-informed competency models guide professionals and their practice. These models aid in curriculum development, credentialing, hiring, recognition, and research. They are especially valuable in ever-evolving and multi-disciplinary fields like wellness.

As the first model of competencies for wellness promotion, the National Wellness Institute (NWI) Wellness Promotion Competency Model advances a common understanding of critical success factors and desired behaviors within the wellness profession to facilitate a common culture and standard of practice. When originally released in 2017, the model became the standard for the Certified Wellness Practitioner (CWP) designation and a foundation for curriculum and training development.

In 2020, NWI collaborated with Butler University and a research team to conduct a study clarifying and supporting the validity of the competency model. Based on the published research, NWI unveiled a revised Wellness Promotion Competency Model that grouped 27 individual competencies into five broad competency domains: 1) Authenticity & Self-awareness, 2) Whole-person & Systems Approaches, 3) Inclusive & Responsive Practices, 4) Communication & Connection, and 5) Legal & Ethical Principles.

The validation of the competency model led the Council on Wellness Certification Excellence (CWCE) to revise the eligibility for the CWP designation and work with national Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to develop a certification examination for the CWP designation. To support professionals’ development in wellness promotion, NWI collaborated with additional subject matter experts to develop nine Wellness Promotion Competency Courses based on the Wellness Promotion Competency five-domain model.

Like many models in wellness, health, and behavior science, the NWI Wellness Promotion Competency Model is cyclical in nature to showcase the constant growth and development wellness professionals manifest as they support and cultivate holistic wellness. Whereas other models and associated research are often based on job tasks and responsibilities, this model serves as the foundation for the knowledge, skills, and abilities wellness professionals should be able to showcase in the work they do to enhance inclusive well-being for all, no matter the space in which they work.

From wellness coaching and corporate wellness to human resources, research, health education, community development, healthcare, and more, this competency model guides professionals by setting standards that apply to various wellness-related jobs, levels of experience, and expertise. Understanding the competencies within it is essential for individuals seeking additional credibility and planning continuing education; leaders hiring, promoting, and training wellness practitioners, and institutions educating future wellness professionals.