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Ground-breaking New Competency Model for Wellness Promotion Released

Tuesday, August 1, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: NWI
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National Wellness Institute’s Council on Wellness Certification Excellence (CWCE) has recently announced the release of a new competency model for wellness promotion. The competency model, the first in the wellness industry, will serve as a resource for career guidance, mentorship, curriculum development, recruitment and hiring, continuing professional development, certification, and assessment development.


Wellness is defined as an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence (National Wellness Institute, n.d.). It is positive and affirming method of personal growth and becoming aware of our multi-dimensional and holistic nature. Counselors, social workers, nurses, health educators, and chiropractors, among others, are integrating wellness concepts into their practice to address the needs of their patients, clients, or employees through a whole-person approach. Despite the growing popularity of the wellness profession and wellness programs, some researchers argue that a misalignment between the philosophy and actual practice of wellness promotion continues to exist, leading to criticism of the wellness paradigm for discriminatory and unethical practices (Basas, 2014; Breen, Green, Roarty, & Saggers, 2008; Hawks, Smith, Thomas, Christley, Meinzer, Pyne, 2007). 

The need for professional wellness competencies is evident from the conflation of methods to promote disease management with those that aim to promote wellness. The use of conditional incentives is popular in worksite wellness programs to motivate employee health behavior change, despite being inconsistent with person-centered wellness methods and the human values of fairness and equity (Schmidt, Asch, and Halpern, 2012; Barte, and Wendel-Vos, 2016). Furthermore, many health behavior change strategies focus on eliciting emotions such as fear, shame, or guilt to motivate individuals to lose weight, become more active, or eat more vegetables to reduce their risk of disease (Wiley, 2016). While control-oriented methods like contingent incentives or fear-based messaging might motivate individuals to change their behavior short-term, it may have adverse consequences to their capacity to exercise practical autonomy and work toward their own vision of what makes life worth living (Buchanan, 2000). Wellness promotion offers an alternative paradigm to the traditional methods of health promotion and public health. However, to be fully realized, a standard of wellness practice that is consistent with the philosophy and theory must be recognized.

Competency standards are recognized world-wide as a tool to ensure professionals can competently perform skills and behaviors required to be successful in their role. As an approach to improving quality of life, wellness promotion has lacked a clearly defined set of competencies to guide the academic preparation and professional development of practitioners. Bridging the gap between philosophy, theory and practice by identifying the core competencies of wellness promotion is an essential step in training practitioners to successfully promote ethical and effective wellness strategies. 

To advance the formation of wellness competencies, the CWCE collaborated with employers, experienced professionals, and education partners for two years to assess the knowledge and skills essential to wellness practice within multiple areas of practice. Based upon the results of interviews, survey research, and an expert review process, these items represent the minimum essential competencies for a professional to be considered competent in wellness promotion, regardless of their specific job function. The model represents five distinct domains of competencies that aim to bridge the gap between the philosophy and science of wellness, and professional practice, including professional, systems, contextual, project management, and methodological aspects. 


This model finally clarifies what doing wellness means. The model is significant in that it guides professionals employed in this challenging role in how to partner with clients using an autonomy-supportive approach; consider the individual’s or community’s whole life context, values and aspirations; and collaborate as part of an inter-professional team to address organizational and community barriers to wellness. 

The wellness competency model is distinct from related models for health promotion and health education by focusing more on interpersonal and relationship-based skills to work with individuals as opposed to the technical skills of program management, education, and policy to affect population level change. It is also unique in that it elevates the importance of autonomy-supportive, strengths-based and humanistic approaches to cultivating intrinsic motivation and personal growth. Since health is only one of many human values, this model guides wellness practitioners in how to partner with individuals as a whole person in realizing their goals and aspirations -- health-related or not.

The CWCE was formed by the National Wellness Institute in 2016 to oversee the standards and governance of the Certified Wellness Practitioner (CWP) certification. Its mission is to support wellness practitioners by defining, recognizing, and promoting ethical, high-quality, and competent wellness practice. This is achieved through maintaining high-quality certification standards, recognizing competent wellness practitioners, and awarding credentials, ensuring continuing competence of credentialed individuals.

The new wellness promotion competency model can be viewed on the National Wellness Institute’s website at



Janelle Baldwin says...
Posted Monday, August 21, 2017
I love this! I will definitely investigate a bit more on this...thanks for being a leader in Wellbeing and setting these competency standards! - Janelle Baldwin PTA, CWT, STS, CSCI, CWP and CWC!