PHWC Scope of Practice

A Professional Health and Wellness Coach (“PHWC”) is a health coach educated by the Nutritional Therapy Association, Inc. PHWCs are trained to master the art of cultivating curiosity, encouraging exploration, and reflecting objective truths that empower a client to discover possibilities and create a supportive path toward their vision of health and wellness.

A PHWC utilizes a wide variety of tools and coaching skills to help clients discover the internal motivation, resources, and strategies they need to make lasting, impactful changes for their health and wellbeing. These tools include:  

  • Motivational interviewing including reflective listening, open-ended questions, affirmations, reflections, and summaries
  • The NTA Health and Wellness Wheel Assessment
  • Unconditional positive regard and empathy
  • Calm coaching presence
  • Coaching tools for expanding as well as focusing the coaching conversation
  • Understanding of behavior change psychology and positive psychology and the role of both in health coaching
  • Opportunity to access exclusive PHWC HIPAA compliant health coaching software with client forms and reports
  • Supportive PHWC coaching session structure and frameworks
  • PHWC resource library

All support provided by a PHWC should be evidence-based and focused on providing a client-led experience. A PHWC is not trained to provide medical advice or recommendations. A PHWC may not diagnose, treat, prevent, prescribe, or cure any pathological condition, illness, or disease. No provided education or comment made by a PHWC should be construed as medical advice or a diagnosis.

According to the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC), health coaches may, when appropriate, offer evidence-based resources and information from nationally recognized authorities. Additionally, they may support in the implementation of a provider’s treatment plan when working under the license of a qualified medical professional.

The NBHWC also outlines provisions for health coaches who hold state or nationally recognized credentials, permitting them to provide insights covered under the professional scope of practice for that license provided conflicts of interest are discussed, appropriate boundaries are upheld, and the client is asked for permission to step out of the health coaching conversation and enter a conversation under the other professional discipline. Further details from the NBHWC can be found on their website.

 When a PHWC completes their program, they earn the right to use the designated title of an NTA certified Professional Health and Wellness Coach, or, PHWC. A PHWC must adhere to the laws in their state, which govern the appropriate use of other titles that may be applicable to their field and services offered.  

Health and wellness coaches should be knowledgeable of the right to practice health coaching in their state of residence as defined by the laws of their state. Please visit the Council for Holistic Health Educators for more information on the laws of your state.

Roles performed by Professional Health and Wellness Coaches

The role of a PHWC is to serve as facilitators in the behavior change process, supporting a client in discovering their own strength and abilities to achieve their health and wellness goals. PHWCs utilize client interviews, intake assessments, and effective behavior change practices to help their clients take ownership of their health and feel empowered to make positive progress, even in the face of a challenge.

PHWCs are wellness champions in their community that empower clients with the confidence, resources, and support necessary to reclaim health. In order to utilize this credential, a health coach must abide by this scope of practice and the relevant state or federal laws and regulations in their region.   

PHWCs Don’t: 

  • Recommend food, supplements, or lifestyle habits for clients to incorporate
  • Direct or determine a client’s goals and objectives
  • Work outside of this Scope of Practice, unless they are nationally or state licensed and have an alternative Scope of Practice for that profession
  • Diagnose or treat disease  
  • Make unproven health claims  
  • Misrepresent training or title   

PHWCs Do: 

  • Review a client’s intake information to assess the client’s readiness for change
  • Support the client in exploring and articulating their values and sense of purpose
  • Empower the client to design appropriate action steps that move them toward self-determined goals
  • Understand the psychology behind behavior change
  • Effectively partner with clients in designing a vision of health and wellness, setting goals, creating action steps, and navigating challenges
  • Foster client resilience and encourage a growth mindset
  • Empower clients to cultivate positivity and optimism in their journey
  • Support clients in identifying and developing habits that help them thrive
  • Draw on motivational interviewing skills as a key strategy to listen and communicate in a way that fosters the client’s sense of safety and acceptance
  • Leverage insights from trusted nationally recognized sources and scientific research to support clients in further understanding health and wellbeing
  • Collaborate and partner with the client’s medical team to support clients in adopting doctor prescribed protocols
  • Work as a health coach in private practice and/or in the healthcare system
  • Refer clients to licensed medical professionals if the client requires medical or mental health interventions


    Distinguishing Features of Professional Health and Wellness Coaches:  

    • Honors bio-individuality through a whole-person perspective   
    • Emphasis on client empowerment and self-determined action
    • Recognizes that the client is the expert in their own life
    • Strengthens a client’s belief in themselves and confidence in their ability to make consistent progress toward their unique vision of health and wellness
    • Listens to the client’s experience, recognizes client accessibility, and uses health coaching tools accordingly to meet the client where they are
    • Holds a safe place for clients to continually feel seen, heard, encouraged, trusted and supported


      PHWC Scope of Practice Violations

      In the event a violation of scope of practice is reported to the NTA, our Academic Council will conduct an investigation to include the following steps: 

      • A conversation with the reporter will be held, along with a collection of any evidence they have to support their claims. Their identity will be kept confidential whenever possible. 
      • A review will be conducted of any public facing content associated with the PHWC in question as relevant to the nature of the complaint, including but not limited to their website, social media content, and professional listings. 
      • A conversation with the PWHC in question will be held to notify them of the complaint, share any findings we have from our initial investigation, and, depending on the nature of the reported violation, we may ask the PHWC to provide us with any documentation or information they have about the reported event/action. 
      • Details of the complaint and resulting conversations will be documented in the PHWC’s record within NTA’s database. 
      • After assessing all available information, the Academic Council will determine if any action is required and will notify the PWHC of any needed changes or resulting consequences. 

      If the incident involves direct harm to an individual with documented proof, the first violation can result in a revocation of certification from the NTA. 

      For all other first offenses found to be valid, the NTA will issue a written warning to the PHWC and provide guidance to ensure scope of practice is upheld moving forward. 

      If a second violation is reported and found to be valid, the PHWC will be placed on probationary terms to be determined based on the nature of the violation. 

      In the event a third violation is reported and found to be valid, the NTA may revoke the PHWC’s credential and they will no longer be certified to practice. 

      If you need to report a violation you have witnessed or experienced, follow the steps below: 

      • Gather the documentation/evidence you have to substantiate your claim. The NTA cannot properly investigate any report that is not sufficiently supported with evidence. 
      • Write an account of your concern and attach supporting documentation to nta@nutritionaltherapy.com, being sure to name the PHWC and your specific concerns related to a scope of practice violation. 

      The report will be provided to the members of the Academic Council and the outlined investigative process with ensue.