Tag Archives: professional development

How to Identify a Credible Wellness Certification


You want your wellness program to be effective and make a difference for your organization. Hiring Wellness Directors and Wellness Coordinators who are certified is one important factor because third-party certification holds wellness professionals to higher standards. The certification process also helps ensure consistency among practitioners in the field. Unfortunately, because of the significant growth in wellness-related certifications over the past 10 years, hiring managers find it challenging to easily identify a quality credential consistent with the competencies required to successfully promote wellness.

A professional certified in wellness promotion demonstrates that they are more driven toward quality practice, ethical standards and on-going learning in the field. Bridgette Stewart, Senior Lecturer at the University of West Georgia and Chair of the Council on Wellness Certification Excellence (CWCE), believes that hiring wellness professionals with the right certifications, “helps ensure that your employees understand their scope of practice and ethical standards. They also introduce your employees to a professional network so they can get involved with a diverse group of individuals to expand their skill-set and impact.”

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) defines the primary focus of a certification as demonstrating that an individual meets the standard competency requirements to perform in a certain professional role. A time-limited credential is awarded upon successful assessment of the individual and on-going continuing education is required for maintenance. The assessment process for a certification is independent of specific courses or training programs and the certifying agency is not the sole provider of any preparatory education/training. In contrast, assessment-based certificates are defined as the outcome of a class, course, or training program, where an individual passes an examination evaluating their mastery of specific learning objectives. Unfortunately, many of the so-called “certifications” in the wellness industry are actually more consistent with the standards for “assessment-based certificate” programs leading to certification confusion in the field.

According to Dr. Lana Saal, an independent wellness consultant, it is critical for wellness professionals to have a credential that validates their competencies in all areas of wellness because “one-off certifications that only assess one area of wellness like fitness or nutrition are too specific.” She believes that a national credential, which assesses multi-dimensional wellness competencies, is needed.

So, what should you do if are looking at the application from a wellness professional and you are unfamiliar with their credentials? Here are a few tips to help you vet the credential based on the defining qualities of certification from the NCCA:

  1. Primary focus of the program: Does the program provide an independent assessment of the competencies required for proficient performance in the professional role?
  2. Content of Program: Is the program based on competencies that were identified through a formal study (e.g., job/practice analysis, role delineation)?
  3. Program Oversight: Is there an independent governing body with representation from relevant stakeholders in charge of decision making and standard setting?
  4. Provider Role in Education and Training: Does the certification provider conduct the certification program independently of any educational/training programs?
  5. Education and Training Requirements and Prerequisites: Is the certification provider the SOLE provider of any preparatory education/training that may be necessary for certification?
  6. Assessment: Is successful completion of an assessment required to receive the certification?
  7. Validation of Assessment: Is the content of the assessment validated through a formal study and documentation of a link between study findings and the competencies represented in the assessment?
  8. Standard Setting: Does the certification program use a generally accepted method for standard setting?
  9. Evaluation of Assessments: Is the effectiveness of the assessment evaluated on a regular basis to ensure its ongoing utility for measuring the competency standards set by the governing body?
  10. Credential Maintenance: Is the certification time-limited? Is continuing education required for certification maintenance?

While a rigorous assessment process that evaluates the competencies required to effectively perform a wellness-promoting job is critical, Mark Mulray, VP of Operations for Health Promotion Solutions, believes that it all ties back to the reputation of the certifying organization and building a trusting relationship with them that their certification process consistently provides highly qualified wellness professionals.

Currently, a wellness certification that meets all of the standards for accreditation by the NCCA does not exist. In a world where anyone can call themselves a Wellness Practitioner, regardless of adequate training or experience, dialogue around the need for certification standards will become more and more important for the wellness industry and profession to advance their credibility.


Are our Wellness Associations Well? 3 Questions to Ask When Joining a Wellness Professional Association

Wellness Caesar Augustus Capri Italy

As a wellness professional, you may choose to join a professional association for many reasons. It may be because you want to stay up to date on current information, stay engaged in the profession, and perhaps earn some continuing education credit. As the wellness profession matures, it is important that our professional associations also mature as they continue advancing their mission to educate, mentor, and elevate the field. After working for a professional association with a long history of promoting wellness worldwide, there are a few questions I suggest wellness professionals consider asking when deciding which association will deliver the professional development experience they need and maintain the credibility of the wellness industry as a whole:

  1. How does your association set quality standards for their education, certification, and content marketing programs? Or, what best-practices does your association follow in these areas?
  2. How does your association demonstrate accountability to stakeholders?
  3. How does your association’s organizational and leadership practices foster a culture of wellness?

Professional associations serve as thought leaders in the profession and are often key stakeholders in developing industry-wide standards that guide higher education, certification and continuing education programs. When joining a wellness association, it is important that its leaders are either involved with setting standards or following established national standards and best-practices. For instance, if your association offers certification programs, you may want to ask if they are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) to ensure the program meets the highest standards in the certification industry. Or, if you plan to attend their conferences or training programs, you may want to ask if they use a peer-review process for training content, blind reviews for conference session selection, and have visible conflict of interest disclosures for presenters. Finally, does your wellness association have quality standards for the information they post on social media? The internet is full of spurious claims and dubious research, which is why many of us turn to our professional association to help us sort out the “click bait” and find credible resources. Therefore, it is important that wellness associations have quality standards and avoid sharing questionable media stories or research articles as part of their content marketing strategy under the guise of providing you up to date and credible information.

We may assume that if our wellness association is teaching us about worksite wellness, that they are probably the epitome of a well organization. But what if that is not the case and your wellness association is organizationally unwell? Since many wellness associations are in the business of educating professionals about standards, practices and ethics in worksite wellness, the wellness association has an obligation to act as a role model in this area. Does the Executive Director consume fast food for lunch everyday, ignoring personal, community, and environmental health? Do board members routinely serve their entire term or resign early because of internal incivility? Do staff feel their work is meaningful and valued by the organization or do they just show up for the paycheck? You may not be able to find answers to questions like these, but inquiring more about the organization’s leadership practices and wellness programming, or gauging their response to a suggestion that they include employee wellness metrics in their annual report might provide some insight on the extent to which they “walk the walk.” The culture of an organization has ripple effects on the quality of products, services, and support it is ultimately able to provide for its members or customers.

As professionals, we need to ensure that our professionals associations are transparent and accountable to stakeholders. Many wellness associations are not-for-profit entities and enjoy a public appearance of honesty and integrity. However, without access to their annual reports and outcome evaluations, how can we know for certain that they are being fiscally responsible and actually meeting their stated mission and objectives? Professional associations, especially those with non-profit status, should have items such as their bylaws, board minutes, and annual reports that include financials publicly available on their website. If you cannot find these items on their website, your wellness association may not be able to demonstrate that it is serving your needs or making a meaningful impact on your career development. Asking questions about your wellness organization’s evaluation processes and transparency protocols ensure that you can be confident your organization is providing value and achieving its goals with donor and tax-exempt monies rather than spending thousands dollars on golf outings and family trips for the Executive Director.

Wellness associations offer many valuable resources and programs to support professionals in making a difference each day. However, if our wellness associations are not being held accountable, how can we ensure the wellness profession and industry as a whole are operating at the highest standard? This begins by ensuring that our wellness associations truly walk the walk of wellness by following best-practices in educational programming, being transparent and accountable to members and consumers, and creating thriving organizational cultures within their own organization. We can nudge our profession in this direction by asking these type of questions before joining a wellness organization or attending their educational programs.