Often overlooked in the health care picture for individuals suffering from a life-threatening illness is the importance of stress management and a blueprint to assure present-moment happiness.

A life-threatening illness diagnosis can be devastating. The patient and family are overwhelmed with the “what will happen” of the future or the “what ifs” of the past. These are states of mind that hamper enjoying the present moment in a health crisis.

Stress management and life coaching are two integrative medicine modalities that can mitigate the distress by showing the patient how to let go of the unpredictable future and unpleasant memories of the inextinguishable past.

According to the International Coach Federation (ICF), life coaching for the treatment of life-threatening illness is partnering with a patient to help him/her define outcomes and to plot a plan that decreases the associated fear and stress. In essence, a life coach can help the patient and family discover the strength of inner wisdom and move forward in a most positive way.

Selecting the right life coach can be nebulous and therefore problematic. It is recommended that individuals investigate the credentials of a life coach by visiting the ICF website (www.coachfederation.org). The organization assesses and certifies the competence of life coaches and inspires the pursuit of continuous research and development in the profession. For certification, life coaches must clock up to 60 training hours, complete at least 250 supervised coaching hours, pass an exam and abide by the ICF Code of Ethics.

Among other requirements, the Code expects a certified coach to accurately identify his/her coaching qualifications and indicate that he/she is not a psychotherapist or physician and refer the client to other professionals as needed.

It is important to emphasize that stress management and life coaching are not meant to be substitutes for the care of other health professionals, but can be vital adjuncts to such care.

The primary aim of stress management and life coaching is to help the patient and family design a plan to decrease the anguish associated with a life-threatening illness and to start living a happier and healthier life.

Jaime Carlo-Casellas, Ph.D. is a Stress Management Specialist, a Certified Life Coach, a Registered Yoga Instructor, and founding director of the Stress Management & Prevention Center in Rancho Mirage. For more on Jaime Carlo-Casellas, visit www.stressprevention.org.

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