Orientation to Family & Peer Health Coaching Guidebook (next edition 2010)

September 28, 2009 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

Orientation to Learning Process

Family and peer health coaching programs promote healthy habits and reduce the burden of chronic diseases. Leaders from all levels and walks of life (politicians, health care advocates, policy-makers, change agents, faculty, trainers, teachers, community organizers and lay health coaches) can experience this peer coaching process and improve their own health habits. Such learning experiences can activate leaders to implement such coaching programs at multiple levels within their organizations and communities. Leaders can organize “train the trainer” workshops to disseminate peer coaching programs, using top-down, horizontal and bottom-up strategies. Organizational alignment of these strategies will accelerate the dissemination rate of these programs.

This guidebook will help you improve your healthy habits, using a collaborative self-reflective learning process.  Collaborative learning is a more effective way of changing your unhealthy habits than on relying on self-reflective learning exercises alone. With this approach, you become the researcher or principle investigator of your own behavior change and work with a co-investigator to assist you in learning about the change process. And then, you can reverse these roles to help your colleague, family member or friend change.   

In effect, you learn how to become peer coaches to each other in addressing health behavior change. As you work with others to enhance your coaching skills, you can begin a professional journey of leadership development.  Beginning with your organization, you can engage trainers, staff and their families in the same peer coaching process and then replicate the same process for patients/clients and their families.

These learning experiences can also lay the groundwork for disseminating “train-the-trainers” programs to community organizations, educational institutions and work settings. These strategies can build momentum for generating professional and social movements that promote healthy habits. Depending on your aspirations, you can enhance the level of your leadership role over time that goes beyond your family and your work situation to social, community, regional, national and global initiatives.

The major influences that shaped the synthesis of this peer coaching, leadership development and dissemination processes (described in Parts 1-4) are listed at the beginning of the bibliography. This book integrates recent technological online developments with well-established concepts from different fields of scholarship to create and disseminate innovative learning programs about health behavior change.  For example, blended learning methods that use online learning programs and Web 2.0 /3.0 social media technologies have the capacities to greatly scale up the reach and impact of such coaching programs.

On the other hand, some well-established concepts, such as transformational learning and leadership, are poorly understood or have become modern day clichés that they can distract from effective dissemination of such learning programs. Regrettably, some of these clichés have lost their original meaning and positive connotations. For example, the word, transformational, has acquired some negative associations. Such reactions can impair the prospects of disseminating innovative behavior change programs. Furthermore, skeptical reactions detract from understanding the meaning of transformational learning and leadership. Despite these potential risks, the original terms are used to honor different fields of scholarship, without reframing old ideas into new ones.

Part I of this book focuses on the need to develop transformational leaders with different levels of education and health literacy who work within their organizations and communities. High, mid and low-level leaders can disseminate behavior change programs by becoming family and peer coaches. Together, these leaders can form local networks for professional development within their respective organizations and communities. Alignment of such leadership development networks is one of the most important variables in determining the dissemination rate of effective behavior change programs. These networks can enhance their impact through peer leadership coaching and vertical mentoring relationships between the different levels of leaderships.

Part II prepares you for understanding how you can transform your perceptions and feelings in favor of healthy behavior change. Metaphors can facilitate such transformation. Such mental preparation can enhance your understanding about making deep change and your prospects of experiencing transformational learning.

Part III has a chapter for each of the eight-session program. Each session has a menu of learning exercises that simplifies the complexities of the change process. You can use as few sessions and learning exercises as needed in order to discover your shortest path to healthy habits. These exercises evoke internal dialogues that enhance your self-awareness about how your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, motives and values affect your resistance and motivation to change. To facilitate healthy behavior change, you can reflect about, and make journal notes in response to the learning exercises. Such self-reflection can help you make sense of your learning experiences. You can further enhance the impact of this sense-making process by collaborating and sharing your learning experience with others. Such self-reflection and collaboration can help you transform your unhealthy habits into healthy ones.    

These experiences can prepare you for guiding others (family, friends and patients) through the same learning process. This process can be particularly challenging when working with individuals from social deprived populations. They often have the highest rates of unhealthy habits and experience greatest struggles in trying to change. Furthermore, they are victims of the inverse care law; they have the greatest health care needs and get the least resources. Not surprisingly, they often feel hopeless and helplessness about change.

You can feed into this pessimism if you think that they are beyond help because they lack the capacity to reflect or the capabilities to change. This can create a self-fulfilling prophecy that damages human potential movements for social and self improvement.

Some individuals, especially those who are unable to read and write, may benefit from family members and peers who have been through, and helped others through the same learning process. These family and peer coaches can support your efforts in helping illiterate patients to change.  Even with this expanded social support, these individuals may not develop the self-awareness needed to change. In such circumstances, you will have to work with their social network, family support and environmental circumstances to create social influences that facilitate healthy behavior change.    

For reasons described above, individuals, families and groups can adapt, change and improve the exercises to meet their particular learning needs. Such re-design of these exercises will create more meaningful learning experiences

 Part IV prepares you for cultivating learning organizations and communities by working with leaders, change agents and trainers. Together, you can help your organizations and communities develop the capacities to disseminate behavior change programs. To initiate this process, you can use the lay version of this book, Stepping Stones to Healthy Habits: Discover Your Path to Lasting Change, with members of your organizations and communities. An online version is available for developing blended learning programs to expand the reach and impact of these programs.

 The book provides learning tips along the way to help you use the book in ways that meet your learning needs.

 Learning Tips—If you are undecided about assuming a leadership role, you can jump ahead to Part 2 to prepare yourself for transformational learning. Work through the learning exercises in Part 3, ideally in collaboration of others, will help deepen your understanding about, and unravel the complexity of behavior change. If the learning experience was helpful to you, you can read Parts 1 and 4 to decide what level of a leadership role that you may wish to assume in promoting health habits within your family, organization, community and beyond.

Transformational learning for promoting healthy habits goes against the grain of fast-paced, attention-deficit, multi-tasking lifestyles that seek quick-fixes and instant gratification. This learning process calls for a shift in the expectations and mindset of learners. To effectively address the complexity of health behavior change, learners may need to slow down and complete the learning exercises at a time and pace when they are in receptive learning moods to reflect about themselves.

 To enhance the prospects of transformational learning, learners can collaborate with others (peer, family and professional health coaching, online learning communities, etc) to create a network of positive social support and challenge. This strategy can help to build learning organizations and communities where individuals provide mutual peer support and health coaching. Together, these approaches can help learners stay engaged, focused and follow through on the learning process, especially when they drift off course.

 If you are willing to slow down and consider taking on such a leadership role, you can begin by reading part 1 that addresses what the book sub-title calls for. Individual transformational learning can support families, organizations and communities to change, and vice versa. Such circular synergies can create upward spirals of positive social influences to transform our disease-producing, toxic environments into health-promoting cultures.

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Vision and Mission Statement for Family & Peer Health Coaching Guidebook

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