UM Offers First Certificate Program for Health Coaching in Montana

August 19, 2016

MISSOULA – Curry Health Center at the University of Montana has partnered with UM’s Department of Health and Human Performance to offer the first certificate program in the state for health coaching.

The Health Behavior Coach Certificate will be offered starting this fall.

Building on the success of the Optimal Bear health coaching program, now known as Health Coaching at Curry Health Center, the certificate program provides students with real-world experience to accompany their academic studies under guidance from both faculty and Curry Health Center professionals.

Students will complete courses taught by health and human performance Professors Annie Sondag and Laura Dybdal. In addition to classroom instruction, students in the program will log a minimum of 80 hours of face-to-face time with clients, ranging from UM students to community members seeking health coaching at medical offices in the Missoula area.

“Health coaching is a skill that takes time to build and understand,” said Kayli Julius, health coach coordinator at Curry Health Center. “It is not something you can learn by only reading a textbook or taking an online course.”

The unique, real-world experience students gain with clients sets the program apart from others like it across the nation. Previous participants in the Health Coaching at Curry Health Center program have had success finding employment in the health care industry. Julius said the Health Behavior Coach Certificate will build on this success.

“My training and experience with Health Coaching at Curry Health Center made me realize my passion for health coaching and enabled me to pursue a career in it,” said Grete Homer, 24, a 2014 UM community health graduate. “This is an excellent program that gives students a unique chance to be trained, gain experience and become marketable in the health coaching field.”

Homer now works as a certified health education specialist at Montana Spine and Pain Center in Missoula.

“The certificate program provides UM students with a specific set of skills that not only enhance their prospect for gainful employment, but also have the potential to positively influence the health and well-being of people in our communities,” Sondag said. “As our health care system expands its mission from one that focuses on treating people who are ill to a focus on keeping people healthy, health behavior coaches will be an integral part of the prevention team.”

According the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, health and wellness coaches are one of the largest growing job trends. The report reveals that health and wellness coaching has been in the top 20 trends since 2010 and jumped to No. 13 in the most recent survey.

“Health coaching is a blossoming field because we now know the science behind

effective behavior change,” said Linda Green, director of wellness at Curry Health Center. “Coaching isn’t about telling people what to change, it’s about helping people reach their health goals.”

Students interested in earning a Health Behavior Coach Certificate can call Sondag at 406-243-5215 or visit For more information on health coaching at Curry Health Center, students can call Curry Health Center Wellness at 406-243-6719 or email


Contact: Jessica Vizzutti, Curry Health Center media specialist, 406-243-6958,