What Can You Legally Do as a Coach?
I’m so excited about today’s question — because it’s one that will help you better understand what you can legally do, say, and teach as a coach.
Even though today’s question is about health/wellness — it applies to you, if you talk about money, career, self-care, dating, fitness, business etc — all of those areas dive into areas that are a littttttle sticky, like personal finance, legal, therapy etc.
But do me a favor: go into this Q&A with an open mind. I’m not the kind of lawyer who just tells you what you can’t do. I’m equally as interested in helping you actually grow your business as I am in making sure you do it safely.
There’s SO much space for you in your industry. You don’t have to do something outside of your scope to be successful or profitable. I’m proof of that, if you needed it.
Let’s jump into our legal Q&A sesh! 👇
The Question //
Hi Sam! I have a question relating to suggesting health/nutrition advice as a health coach. I understand you can only provide specific meal plans if you’re an RD. But how do you educate or recommend? What’s the language you would use if you do want to talk about nutrition or meals? Can I give them recipes as a suggestion or can I tell them what I would do or what I normally eat is XYZ? Thanks! Leslie
The Answer //
Oh Leslie! This is a GOOD one!
What Is Scope Of Practice?
First let’s tackle what “scope of practice” is and why it matters for your business.
Scope of practice is just a fancy legal phrase that tells you what you can legally do, say, and teach in your business based on:
🇺🇸 01. States’ laws + regulations
📖 02. What type/level of education, license, qualification or certification you have for what you do/say/teach.
If you’re a coach (or want to be), you can only do what a “coach” can do. Even if you have people sign legal agreements saying they know you’re not a doc/lawyer/acct/nutritionist — you still can’t do things that only those professionals can do.
So what can coaches do then? Lots, actually.
The simplest answer is: educate, empower, encourage (be a coach!), and share resources.
What Coaches Can Do
🔦 I like to think of coaches as someone who holds the flashlight in front of their client (and maybe even holds their hand!) to illuminate the path in front of them as they navigate it together. But the coach doesn’t tell the client where to walk and exactly what path to take.
Coaches can’t diagnose, treat, cure, or offer to prevent things. They can’t create custom plans or tell people what to do. (And this goes way beyond health — you can’t offer to “cure” someone’s financial problems with an investment plan if you’re not a financial advisor, either.)
That means you can’t create meal plans (because that’s telling people what to eat), tell people where to invest their money (that’s advice), or sell them a supplement (because that’s telling them they need it).
So I’ll put my health coaching hat back on for a sec (did you know I had a health coaching biz from 2016-2017?!) and tell you how I’d do it.
Let’s say someone’s been diagnosed (by their physician or medical professional) with diabetes. They’ve been told to follow a low-carb meal plan.
🥯 But the doc forget to mention what a carb was…
So you could help them understand better what foods fall under the “carb” “protein” “fat” categories, so they can make choices that are in alignment with what their doc recommended to them. If they have a meal plan from their RD or doc, you can help them to learn how to implement it by teaching grocery shopping, meal prep, food waste tips.
The truth is that people are so confused and overwhelmed about their businesses, health, careers, dating lives etc that they need your help.
So sure – you might not be able to design a meal plan for them. But your ideal client? That’s not what they need anyway. They need you to help them self-actualize — to be empowered with the info they need to succeed so they don’t need you by their side for the rest of their lives and so they can make empowered choices when they’re out and about.
What Do You Need To Legally Protect Yourself?
In terms of what you’d need to have in place to still legally cover yourself, even if you’re staying within your scope of practice? You need:
01. A properly formed business
02. Solid legal contracts with all your customers/clients
03. Business insurance to cover your 🍑 financially
04. Learning how to stay within your scope on your website, social posts & emails
Want to dive even deeper into what your scope of practice is & how to navigate it? I dove DEEP in this episode of my podcast.
I teach you ALL of that in the Ultimate Bundle™️ (yep I’ve got entire trainings dedicated to scope of practice!) and I even give you all the contracts and policies you need to cover you, too.
Hope this was helpful!