I graduated with a health coach certification from Health Coach Institute (HCI) in October 2017. I completed the Become a Health Coach (BHC) program, beginning in May 2017. I also attended their November 2017 HCI Live event in Dallas, Texas. I also completed part of the HCI “Advanced Nutrition for Health Coaches” training and some of the Life Coach certification training. I did not finish either of those, however, because I am no longer interested in pursuing this as a career. However, I was employed as a health coach and worked with a small handful of private clients, so I do have professional experience to speak from.
This is my honest and personal review of my entire experience with the HCI BHC program, including:
- Cost and value
- Accreditation and certification
- Content- what you learn
- Skills labs, coaching practice, and success calls
- Overall learning experience
- HCI Live event experience
- Summary of pros and cons
…as well as specific and practical suggestions for those considering a pivot into health coaching. I also include helpful reading suggestions throughout this post for those not yet ready to commit the time or money required to become a certified health coach.
NOTE: If you have any questions or comments about BHC or HCI after reading this post, please leave a comment below and I will answer ASAP, even if by the time you read this it’s been several months or years since I wrote the review. I am very happy to answer any questions or help you make this decision, as I would have loved that guidance when I made the decision. Same goes for my thorough and honest review of the eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition certification, which I still get questions and comments on to this day.
COST AND VALUE
The total cost of the program is $4,500. They advertise $5,000 but when I signed up there was a $500 discount for paying up front. If something like that doesn’t exist right now and you are interested in completing a certification through Health Coach Institute, use my HCI BHC referral code: 6RFFX4YR. Bottom line: don’t pay full price.
As for the value of the cost: personally, I think it’s not there. The training, which I will get into in greater detail soon, is extremely mediocre and borderline bad at times.
The program lasts 6 months, with content delivered one week at a time, but you can take up to one year to complete it. I finished in 6 months, so I essentially paid $750 per month. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I would have never paid $750 per month for what I received. Keep reading for specifics on that. Please also keep in mind this is all my personal opinion and experience. There are some excellent helpful comments below that share other perspectives.
ACCREDITATION AND CERTIFICATION
I graduated in October 2017 (despite the November date they printed on my certification) and it is now January 2018 and I have still not received my hard copy certification in the mail. [update: I finally received the cardstock certification mid-April 2018. It was smaller than a normal piece of paper. The date printed on it was January (the digital copy below says November), about 3 months after I actually graduated]
It took a month after certification before I decided to contact them about this, wondering where it was, and it was then brought to my attention that it was my responsibility to contact them for my certification. They did not automatically send it, even though my account shows that I completed everything. This was super annoying.
The paper doesn’t actually matter though. Neither does their PDF version of the certification, which looks like this:
In the real world, as I have since learned, nobody cares if you have this certification or not. There is currently no law saying you have to be certified to practice as a health coach. It can add some credibility in some circumstances, but like a college degree, nobody is going to ask you to prove that you have it. When I worked as a health coach for a local nonprofit, they verbally asked me if I had gone through any training, I said yes, and that was the end of it.
HCI is accredited by CCE, which adds additional credibility to the training. However, unless you plan to take the exam to become a CPC (Certified Professional Coach), this does not matter either.
With that said, if you are very serious about entering this career and hope to make a living as a coach, it probably doesn’t hurt having the accreditation behind you. But it alone isn’t worth the price tag of this program.
CONTENT – WHAT YOU LEARN
The entire program is 100% online. The program is broken up into 4 “pillars.” Each pillar is further broken up into weeks. There is a multiple choice exam at the end of each pillar. Each exam is excruciatingly easy.
Here is a screenshot of what the online learning environment looks like. All lectures are powerpoint-style slides with a voiceover. If you’re like me and prefer people to get to the point, you can watch all videos in 1.5x or 2x speed. Thank God.
Pillar 1 is Nutrition for Health Coaches. It is 6 weeks with an additional 1 “bonus week” material.
When I enrolled in BHC, I thought I would learn the actual science behind nutrition. Instead, BHC teaches more about “how” to eat, or “who you are” when you’re eating. Tips like drink water, chew your food, take deep breaths, etc, fill this pillar. Very little actual nutrition information is given. My biggest mistake was probably going into this whole program with high expectations.
One thing I did not like about this pillar (ok, basically everything) was how it also included some straight up pseudoscience. The only dietary theories explored were “Blood Type Theory” (which in my opinion is total bullshit) and some other theory I can’t remember right now, but which was also really stupid.
The entire premise of “nutrition for health coaches” is that there is no one-size-fits-all diet and that everybody is different, so we need to use our intuition to figure out what’s best for our unique body. Beyond that, very little nutrition information was given. I found this very frustrating because they were basically saying it’s ok to eat anything in any quantity, as long as you feel good doing it. Cocaine feels fucking fantastic and you can even lose weight doing it, but that doesn’t make it good for you! However much I agree with the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, their logic was flawed and they should have provided more science and research.
Each pillar comes with a plethora of handouts, some useful and others not. Here is a screenshot of the handouts section, each available in PDF and DOC formats. You can see the titles of some of the handouts. The very gimmicky handouts like “secret 7” and “how to learn 100 dietary theories in 10 minutes” were very silly. So much garbage material here. I did not end up keeping or using any of it. Most of the handouts were fluff.
Basically, all the “nutrition” information boils down to a few key bullet points:
- Eat fat and protein with every meal to keep blood sugar balanced
- Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and chew your food
- Drink water
- Try not to eat a lot of processed food or too much sugar
- Be nice to yourself and don’t stress
Other than that, you are expected to experiment and figure out what is best for your body. Personally, I think this is a very lackluster nutrition education. Neither of the teachers, Carey and Stacey, is a scientist, dietician, nutritionist, or otherwise really qualified to teach this stuff, so it makes sense that their “science” was rocky at times and they had a slight “woo woo” undertone to most of what they delivered. Personally, that’s just not my style.
Also, for anyone who is plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian, let’s just say you will disagree with most of what they teach. HCI seems to consider ALL diets valid. I find this problematic. (Read my eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification: an honest review)
Overall, I was extremely disappointed with this pillar.
Pillar 2 is Transformational Coaching Skills. Pillar 2 is 14 long weeks, also with “bonus week” material.
Since I already had a pretty strong nutrition background coming into this program, this was the part of BHC that I was most excited about. BHC promises to teach you the psychology of habit change and really focus on the brain science behind why we do what we do and how to “hack” that to get results for our health. It also promises to teach you how to coach. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, BHC did not deliver on any of that (Instead, I recommend you read The Willpower Instinct if this topic interests you). The entirety of pillar 2 was a step-by-step walkthrough of their “90-day Total Transformation” program, a gimmicky program they continually say is what helped Carey build her “six-figure coaching business.”
The done-for-you program would be perfect for someone trying to lose weight who is more of a “feeler” type than “thinker” type. It was very flowery and loaded with manipulative “seeding” marketing crap to try to upsell your client on more services later. Not impressed with that. There were entire sessions whose sole purpose was to coax your client into signing up for more sessions with you, not benefit your client. There was also a lot of weird borderline spiritual shit that just didn’t resonate with me.
Pillar 2 is really just “how to deliver session X.” It’s just a bunch of scripts that are sometimes poorly worded, poorly formatted, and completely unrelated to any health concern other than weight loss. The 90-day program is 12 weeks, so we learned 12 scripts. There is also one “Closing The Deal” script, which you deliver before the 90-day program. Its purpose is to sell your services and gain clients. Useful skills, but it shouldn’t have been the bulk of what we learned.
As for the psychology of habit change and neuroscience, those were practically nonexistent as well (Read The Power of Habit for great information on that). Pillar 2 did not go into “how” to coach either. It focused solely on their specific scripts. I’d consider BHC an extremely basic education.
The pillar 2 bonus material was a handy question guide though, which was probably the most (if only) useful handout in the entire program. Here it is, for free:
Those are the basic coaching questions you learn. Pillar 2 can basically be broken down into a few bullet points. None of this was said explicitly (annoying, because in my opinion, explicit info like this would have been very helpful), but it’s more or less what I gathered from the scripts:
- Don’t ask “why” questions
- Dig deep with your client–keep asking questions until you get to an emotional trigger
- Don’t give advice- your client intrinsically knows the answer for themselves
- Don’t talk about yourself in a session- coaching is all about your client
Pillar 2 was very disappointing, considering it was just a bunch of shitty scripts that only applied to weight loss.
They emphasized how you should listen to your client’s needs though, and go off script when necessary. However, they give no help on how to do that. They don’t actually teach you how to coach or what kinds of questions to ask (other than the handout above, which they didn’t give until the very end AFTER you’d already delivered the 90-day program to your practice clients). Again, they just teach scripts. Lame.
Pillar 3 is Personal Growth. It is 5 weeks long.
This pillar was actually kind of interesting, however, if you’ve ever read any self-help book ever, it was nothing new. Here is a screenshot of the available handouts, which summarize what you learn pretty well:
The problem with pillar 3 was that they talked about overcoming your negative relationship with money a LOT. This is definitely a helpful topic to explore (if it applies to you), but it was very clear what they were doing: seeding you to buy their “Master” program! They even said so, several times, how you should “invest” in yourself by furthering your training. So in my opinion, pillar 3 was like this huge sales pitch for their next level course.
Speaking about that, this is a tactic they used throughout the entire program. They’d say things like “this is a very advanced technique, but you will learn about it in our advanced master training…” Barf.
It got kind of exhausting hearing about how much money Carey made in her “six-figure coaching business” and how we would learn all the “advanced coaching techniques” in their master training. It made the whole program feel very gimmicky, like I’d paid $4,500 for a 6-month sales pitch for a $12k program (a program I obviously did not sign up for because screw HCI).
Pillar 4 is Proven Marketing and Business Systems. It is 6 weeks and optional for graduation.
This turned out to be the best pillar of them all! Here is a screenshot of what you learn in this pillar:
Since I have a strong marketing, business, and sales background, nothing in this pillar was new to me, but I was able to recognize how valuable it is for those who have no business or marketing experience. (Read Wellpreneur if you want modern business/marketing info)
The only annoying thing about it was they kept saying how great it was and how “no other training program teaches you this.” Carey and Stacey are very self-congratulatory people and after 6 months, you really want them to shut the fuck up about it.
SKILLS LABS, COACHING PRACTICE, AND SUCCESS CALLS
Every week of the training, you had to complete a “skills lab” call with another student. You find your skills lab partner either online in the learning portal (I never did this) or in the private Facebook group (this is where most people talked). Each week the skills lab was different and you could work with a different partner if you wanted to.
For the first pillar, the skills labs were more or less conversations about what you’d “learned,” but using awkward scripted coaching-type questions. All skills labs had specific scripts to use. For pillar 2, the skills labs were practicing delivering the 90-day program.
The main problem with the skills labs was that there was no oversight or feedback. So you never knew how you did or where you could improve. I find this very problematic because for 6 months, you practice-coach one another without ever knowing how you’re doing or how you could improve. How could you possibly get better or really learn this way?
In the past, someone from HCI would listen in on your calls and then give you feedback after your lab, but for some reason, they do not offer this anymore. Probably because it costs too much to listen in on 250 calls per week! (There were 500 people in my May 2017 cohort.)
So as for coaching practice, there really isn’t anything in BHC that’s any better than literally talking to a friend.
You do get 8 “success calls” with a “success coach” during the program. I only used 4 of mine because they were that awful. Success Calls consist of you, 3 other students, 1 success coach, and they last 50 minutes. Each person gets 10 minutes to be coached and then gets to hear the other people getting coached. I never found these useful. This was time to get coached on personal stuff, health or life related, or just to be coached through your massive insecurity about being a coach (everyone felt this, including me, because BHC poorly prepared us). But the success calls were too short and too public to really get very far or deep.
Part of the graduation requirement is that you walk 2 practice clients through the 90-Day Total Transformation program, so technically, this is also practice coaching. However, again, there is no oversight or feedback given, and since you only learn scripts and not actually how to coach, these sessions could be very hit or miss!
There were also “Office Hours,” a 2-hour bi-weekly call with Carey and Stacey, where they answer questions live. You may or may not get picked. I stopped listening in after a few months because they never proved useful and the questions from fellow students were stupid, no offense. People would ask about how to use the computer or just complain that they didn’t have time to do everything. There’s nothing worse than listening to someone literally cry about how insecure they feel about themselves (victimizing themselves) or how they have no money (probably the two biggest things people talked about). At first it was interesting and helpful to hear how these concerns were handled, but then it got redundant. I’m just not interested in hearing it over and over and it was not helpful to my development as a coach. (I quickly learned this career path is obviously not right for me!)
OVERALL LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Overall, the best thing that came out of my experience is that I “met” someone who is now a very close friend. We have not met in person, but we continue to talk online/phone weekly. So that’s cool. (She is no longer coaching either, and has similar feelings about the program.)
Other than that, the lack of actual teaching and one-on-one time with coaches made the whole experience feel like I was just being herded through a money-making machine for Carey and Stacey. Almost every week, they would “seed” us into their master training program and remind us of how great they are. Very little actual education was provided. It felt gross and I’m a little embarrassed I did this program at all.
HCI LIVE EVENT EXPERIENCE
To be honest, I left halfway through the first day. The event was a total waste of time and money. It is one huge sales pitch for their master training. I would never recommend this event or go to another one. It was the worst “conference” I have ever been to. Not a SINGLE educational component. You wouldn’t think it possible, but literally the entire thing was a huge scam. Maybe by now, you’re starting to notice this trend about BHC? Yeah. Save your money.
SUMMARY OF PROS AND CONS
- 100% online
- Potentially meet like-minded people in private Facebook group
- CCE Accredited
- Short: 6 months, but you have a year to finish
- You can watch powerpoint videos in double-time (2X) to get it over with!
- Excellent business and marketing material
- Nothing is science-backed, or at least no evidence is provided
- You never learn “psychology of habit change,” as promised
- You never learn any neuroscience, as promised
- The “success calls” are the only one-on-one you get, and you just get 10 minutes
- Expensive at $4,500
- No one-on-one teaching or oversight
- All lectures are powerpoint style (YAWN)
- You never meet your teachers or have actual interaction with them
- You never get feedback about your coaching from a trained coach
- You only learn scripts
Save your money. Read Co-Active Coaching (THE BIBLE of coaching books) if you are interested in being a coach. I learned more from that book than I did from the entire 6-months I “studied” with Health Coach Institute. If there is one coaching book to read, it would be that one.
If you are interested in health coaching specifically, then just brush up on your nutrition online as well. For nutrition book ideas, I have a book list you might be interested in. I also completed the much better Plant-Based Nutrition Certification through eCornell, which I review here.
Health coaching is a sales job. Know that going into it. If you plan to have a private practice, you will be selling yourself. Constantly. There’s no way around it. You will also probably not make a lot of money because at the end of the day, hardly anyone hires a personal health coach. And the people who need it most can’t afford it. Keep this in mind. It’s an uphill battle that you can technically win, but for me, the effort just wasn’t worth it.
If you choose to find employment as a health coach, you will be LUCKY to make $40,000 a year with a company (before taxes). The pay is total shit. Prepare for that. I was paid $20 per hour but only given 6 hours per week. And I considered myself lucky to have an actual job doing this.
Have you completed this certification course? What did you think? I would love to hear about your experience! If you have any other questions, post in the comments below and I will answer 🙂
Thanks for reading and best wishes on your journey!
Please remember this is my personal opinion. Many other graduates loved the program, so check out the comments section for other perspectives. Maybe HCI is exactly what you need right now, so I encourage you to gather as many perspectives as you can. Just because it was wrong for me doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everyone.
Still interested in HCI?
Use my HCI BHC referral code: 6RFFX4YR to save $ at Health Coach Institute.