Are you a fitness coach with clients struggling to make behavior changes that stick?
I, Coach Kasey, have a Ph.D. in psychology and am an expert when it comes to health behavior change. My favorite thing to do is teach coaches the skills necessary to help clients make lasting changes (and make the coaching experience less frustrating for everyone involved!).
Although there are thousands of evidence-based behavior change tools, here I break down one of my go-to strategies that we frequently use at KJO Coaching and is a favorite amongst the fitness coaches I work with inside the Health Mindset Coaching Certification.
Based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), this exercise was originally created to help with anxiety and working through worst-case scenarios, but we find it useful in helping our clients create health and fitness behavior change as well.
The method is what I call “playing out the script.”
What clients realize through this exercise is that typically, finding that the worst case is either not that bad or not likely to happen.
We can use this in the traditional “worst case scenario” manner, but find there are other ways to leverage playing the script within health and fitness coaching or simply helping our clients work through life decisions.
How to Help Your Clients Make Behavior Changes
The original framework requires you to determine the situation you are anxious or fearful about and then ask yourself: if that were actually to happen, what would that lead to?
And then with that response, as yourself again: if THAT were to happen, what would that lead to?
This is similar to other CBT tools taught in the Health Mindset Coaching Certification for breaking negative thought patterns.
When it comes to decision-making and health and fitness-related goals, some more substance is needed.
One example of how this can play out is if a client is in the midst of a big life decision.
An example of how you can approach this with them would be:
Step 1: Identify the options and situations they’re uncertain about
Have your client lay out each possible direction it could take.
Suggest to your client, “Instead of feeling paralyzed by the options, think about each one alone, without the influence of the other options.”
Bonus points if your client writes it down or talks about it with you or someone else! Writing things down (journaling) can be very helpful when it comes to making changes and creating awareness.
Step 2: Really think about what would play out in each direction
The conversation with your client could go as follows:
“With each direction you listed, what exactly would it look like? How would you feel? What outcome will transpire? How might you feel about that decision a month after the fact?”
Have your client do this with each option separately, without considering the influence of the other options.
Step 3: Have them visualize living through specific circumstances in each direction
This is where we believe visualization can actually be quite helpful.
Your clients can visualize themselves making that decision, doing the thing, taking action, etc.
Ask your client, “What does it feel like? How will others feel? What comes of it?”
Encourage your client to feel the emotions and lean into them as if they were happening in real time and have them share with you (and/or write down) what comes up!
Step 4: Review the data
Now that your client has gathered the data, it’s time to analyze it and determine an objective conclusion.
Your client should answer the questions, “what feels best? Which direction aligns best with your values and priorities? Which will best support your future self?”
CBT for Behavior Change and Decision-Making
It sounds like “woo woo” stuff, but this can be helpful even for the more simple things, like the battle to go to the gym vs. relax on the couch or have that second glass of wine vs. sticking to the one glass you planned.
Next time your clients feel like they’re in the middle of a tough decision, no matter how big or how small, you can encourage them to tap into that big, beautiful prefrontal cortex of theirs (the control, attention, and decision-making center of their brain!) and use this exercise to play out the script.
Improve Your Fitness Coaching Skills
If you found this helpful and are interested in further improving your skills as a health and fitness coach, I encourage you to join the Health Mindset Coaching Certification.
Becoming an exceptional fitness coach requires more than just nutrition and training knowledge.
I can teach you how to cultivate a growth mindset in your clients and guide them to sustained behavior change using evidence-based practices based in psychology.
This 13-week program will teach you to leverage the science of mindset and health behavior change to promote increased retention, connection, adherence, and success with your fitness coaching clients.
Click here to get on the waitlist for the next round of HMCC, and you’ll receive 5 free primer education lessons to get you started on improving your coaching skills right away!
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