The Power of Integrative Health Coaching

In November I was delighted to be interviewed by a fellow alumni of Duke University's Integrative Health Coaching Program, Nancy Watson, for the Alumni Newsletter. I have a deep seated passion for educating people about holistic health and wellness and empowering them to make the personal changes in their life as to facilitate healing and greater well-being. I am grateful to Nancy for giving me this opportunity to share my unique method of Integrative Health Coaching. Thank you!  Suzanne

The Power of Group Coaching and Retreats in Integrative Health Coaching: An Interview with Dr. Suzanne Nixon

By: Nancy Watson

After completing her Integrative Health Coach training at Duke, Dr. Suzanne Nixon developed Inspirational Journeys, LLC.  She draws on her training as an Integrative Health Coach and over thirty years of experience in the related fields of consciousness, holistic health, mindfulness, psychotherapy, energy medicine, and personal growth to provide innovative lifestyle and wellness programs.  Her extensive experience as a licensed therapist and her training in mindfulness and meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn have helped her develop deep listening skills and the ability to safely hold space for clients.

She offers eight-week programs combining education and coaching out of her office in Virginia and also offers retreats two to three times each year.  Past retreats include one in Sedona focused on connecting to the spiritual self.  An upcoming retreat in January has the theme “Reset and Renew” and is designed for women who desire support in creating a healthy lifestyle for the new year.  She starts by presenting models of health, including the Duke Wheel of Health and a model that draws from the Native American Medicine Wheel.  She teaches clients the importance of first connecting to their core being, finding out who they are and what matters to them.

Nixon offers encouragement to coaches interested in expanding their offerings and hosting their first retreats.  She finds retreats to be wonderful ways to bring people together, noting intensive experiences may help changes “stick” for clients.  Additionally, she feels that you and your clients will see more change if you follow through with coaching after the retreat. 

As a coach, Nixon finds it especially rewarding when clients have “light bulb experiences” – those moments when they clearly see connections or identify barriers and are able to move forward.  She feels these light bulb moments become pivotal points for transformation.  For example, one client presented with concerns about weight and exercise. However, after a group coaching session the client realized she knew what to do to manage her weight, but she had abandoned her connection to her spirit and soul.  She then wrote new coaching goals that shifted to meaning and purpose, connecting to her inner self and connecting to nature.

As her coaching practice grows, Nixon has learned that people need more follow-up.  She observes that change can be difficult and usually happens in small steps.  Because of this, she finds it important to give clients positive affirmation and motivation to increase their potential for success.  When working with coaching clients she elevates the way she speaks, bringing more vibrancy, aliveness, and expressiveness to her speech than she would with therapy clients.  For Nixon, a key to effective coaching is saluting successes with positive reinforcement.

If you are new to retreat planning, Nixon recommends honing your business and logistical skills as planning a retreat takes lots of administrative work.  Pick a nice facility, take the time to coordinate with the staff in advance, and make sure you have the appropriate waivers and releases to travel with your clients.  Draw from your current clients but also consider intensifying your marketing to attract new clients.