Perspectives, news, and announcements from the Center that will ignite your passion for wellbeing.

Featured Alumni: Ricka Kohnstamm

May 7, 2018


Ricka Robb Kohnstamm combines more than 25 years of professional service industry and strategic consulting expertise with a M.A. in Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coaching from the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota, one of the United States' premiere research universities.  She offers individual and group coaching at her private practice, Align Whole Health, and enjoys speaking to groups about self-care as primary care.

How have you applied what you learned through the Center's health coaching program? 

The mind, body, spirit learning conveyed through the Center's Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coaching Master’s program is having a profound effect on my life, both professionally and personally. The Center’s approach to coaching, which embeds a professional, non-directive, client-centric structure within a holistic view of the roots of healing, provides a rich vessel through which I continue to expand my understanding of my life experiences.  As importantly, it provides a deeply effective roadmap for me to walk next to others as they unravel complex issues that are keeping them from optimal health.
I, along with many of the recent graduates of the program, am nationally board certified (NBC-HWC).  Through my private practice I work with adults who feel stuck and overwhelmed. My clients include executives, physicians, entrepreneurs and people in their 20-30's. I provide support for life transitions (when children leave home, when a relationship breaks up, when a spouse dies, when a career no longer fits, retirement, etc.), finding purpose (for the first time or finding it again after many years), complex parenting challenges (when a child suffers trauma or a disability or chronic illness), support for depression recovery (through lifestyle behavior changes), workplace wellbeing (including burnout, overwhelm, leadership challenges, etc.), care-taking, and end-of-life planning and support (including complex conversations within families). My clients say that regularly meeting with me helps them hold themselves accountable for actionable changes.  
There are many other coaching models taught around the country, and I believe the Center’s approach is the most sophisticated because of its groundedness in the mind, body, spirit pathways and their intertwined connection to health and healing.

  • Why and when would you recommend someone seek out a health coach? 

Some coaches work with clinical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure.  Others work with particular modalities, like mindfulness or Enneagram. My clients seek me out when they feel “itchy” about something that isn’t going well for them.  Perhaps a big change is on the horizon and they find themselves becoming extremely stressed, which is affecting their ability to sleep. Or they are depleted by work and find themselves becoming increasingly short-tempered with their partner or children but feel stuck because their family is dependent on their income.  In another example, a parent might be supporting a child who has experienced trauma and while they themselves are not in therapy, they benefit from safe, confidential space to unravel their own next steps as they walk next to their child.  I focus on helping my clients identify the roots of their itchy feelings and to increase self-awareness so that they can make skilled choices about their behaviors, rather than simply reacting in habitual ways.

As a health coach, what one tip or piece of advice would you share with pepole who wanted to make a change?

I suggest that people regularly take time to pull back and check in with themselves to gauge what is working well in their life and where they feel emotionally “itchy”.  That “itchy” feeling may indicate an opportunity to explore options for healthy change.  

How do you see the Health Coaching field evolving in the coming years?

Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coaching is, in my opinion, the ultimate self-care tool.  As people increase their awareness that self-care is primary care, I expect there to be broad demand for skilled practitioners, both in private practice and within organizations, in this emerging field.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about becoming a health coach?

The advice I would give to someone who is thinking about becoming a health coach is to be ready to dig down and do their own personal work.  The University’s academic program is rigorous, the course offerings are broad, but the real catalyst for effective training is the personal work one does along the way.  We can walk successfully next to others when we have done our own work.


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