Vision: The Clinical Health Coaching Research and Training Center (CHCRTC) serves as the administrative core for clinical health coaching research, services, and training. The CHCRTC provides health coaching services for individuals throughout their life. Our clinical health coaches provide a continuum of services including: disease prevention, illness management, and optimal performance. As a research and training center we are able to connect community members to research studies, and prepares student learners to become healthcare leaders. Our programs and services advance 21st century health care via the integration of high quality, evidence based health coaching practice into clinical, organizational and community settings.


  • Train high quality, nationally recognized clinical health coaches
  • Conduct evidence based, quality health coaching-related research
  • Provide community-engaged health coaching services, training and mentorship

What is Clinical Health Coaching?

Clinical health coaching is typically conducted in the context of disease prevention and/or chronic condition self-management within public and private sector health services. Clinical health coaches also work in the area of human performance. It is suitable for interdisciplinary teams of health professionals within chronic disease prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation and other chronic condition self-management programs as well as to support optimal health and wellness.

Clinical health coaching can be used as stand-alone health behavior change intervention, and there is also a growing demand for health organizations to use dedicated clinical health coaches as part of their chronic disease management programs.

Clinical health coaching techniques enable efficient use of consultation time by focusing on what patients can actively do to improve their health. The Model promotes patients’ responsibility for their own health management. Consultations can be face-to-face, telephone- or video-based or within a group setting.

In summary – clinical health coaches motivate patients toward readiness to change, assist them to make real-world, long-lasting behavioral changes, inclusive of their actions, thoughts, and emotions, and empower patients to achieve better health outcomes.

Resolving to Be Coached

As part of the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition (BHAN), College of Health Sciences, the CHCRTC is a three-pronged program that integrates coaching training, research, and practice. Housed on STAR campus, the CHCRTC is a state of the art coaching facility including: counseling rooms with built-in observation technology, biometric assessment capacity, on-line, telemedicine format capabilities, patient simulation, healthcare theatre and group coaching space. As part of the STAR Clinic network, our facility has ancillary billing, electronic medical record, and scheduling support. CHCRTC staff include academic, clinic, and research directors, 6 research-engaged faculty 1.6 FTE certified health coaches, 4 affiliate coaches and 2 graduate students. The CHCRTC incorporates BHAN’s nationally recognized Graduate Clinical Health Coaching Certificate program, and has access to all University of Delaware support services and resources.


Center Director: Michael Peterson, EdD.
Dr. Peterson is the founding director and creator of the Clinical Health Coaching program, and the CHCRTC. He is also Chairman of the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition. Dr. Peterson’s academic background is in behavioral medicine and health promotion. Dr. Peterson’s work in the area of clinical health coaching focuses on the integration of health coaching into a clinical setting, and the establishment of clinical health coaches as a reimbursable part of 21st century health care.

Research Director: Richard Suminski, PhD.
Dr. Suminski is an Associate Professor of Health Behavior Sciences at the University of Delaware and currently the Principal Investigator on two NIH funded studies examining the measurement and promotion of physical activity and an Institute of Coaching funded project looking at the impact of health coaching on bariatric patients’ outcomes. He has over a 100 peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters and scientific presentations mainly in the areas of physical activity/exercise behavior and chronic disease prevention.

Michael Mackenzie, Assistant ProfessorAcademic Director: Michael Mackenzie, PhD.
Dr. Mackenzie is an Assistant Professor of Health Behavior Science at University of Delaware. Dr. Mackenzie has worked in research, clinical, and leadership roles in the fields of oncology, mental health, rehabilitation and education since 2000.Dr. Mackenzie is Program Director for UD’s International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching (ICHWC)-approved Graduate Certificate in Clinical Health Coaching. Dr. Mackenzie’s work in the area of clinical health coaching focuses on health coaching in cancer survivorship.

Clinic Director: Tara Leonard MS, CHC
Tara is a nationally recognized clinical health coach, a consultant to the ICHWC, and inaugural director of the Health Coaching Clinic located on the STAR campus. Tara oversees all clinical health coaching activities.

Affiliated Faculty:
Diane Beneck, MS, CHC, BSN
Marc Lodyga PhD.
Elizabeth Orsega-Smith PhD.
Jennifer Saylor PhD.
Linda Smith, MS, CHC
Laurie Ruggerio, PhD


We provide a variety of health coaching options for individuals who are in need or desire health coaching services. We also partner and take referrals from other health clinics and medical professionals to help better serve patients and achieve higher quality health outcomes.

One on One Health Coaching:

Patients bring to the coach information and recommendations from their treatment providers and work with the coach to decide which ones to enact and most importantly how to do so in a way they can gain and sustain the skills necessary to improve their overall health outcomes. Our clinical health coaches also help connect client/patients with both internal and external resources and referrals appropriate to the needs of the client/patient

ANEW (Aligning Nutrition Exercise and Wellbeing):

A program aimed at helping women improve their health through nutrition, exercise and wellbeing group coaching sessions. These sessions increase overall understanding of personal nutrition and exercise and support healthy lifestyle change through targeted goal setting. Certified Health Coaches, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist present education in a group format with ongoing coaching support throughout the 10 week program.

Employee Wellness Programming:

The clinic offers Health Coaching programs focused around physical activity, nutrition and wellbeing in an employee wellness environment. Employees may participate in both the wellness programming as well as individual health coaching.

Biometric Screening and Health Coaching session:

Health Coaches perform a basic biometric screen including blood pressure and a lipid panel (non-fasting blood glucose and non-fasting cholesterol). Screening results are discussed with the client and the remainder of the hour long session is focused on client-driven goal setting for improved overall health outcomes. Referrals to appropriate health professionals may be offered if needed.

You can contact our clinic by emailing us at:

Clinic / Hours

To learn more about how you can connect with a health coach, schedule a coaching session, or see our various service options please visit our NMHC Health Coaching Center.

Clinical Health Coaching Research


The CHCRTC is involved in a number of ongoing research efforts to study the effectiveness and enhance the training of clinical health coaches. Following is a list of the different research studies:

Impact of Health Coaching on Patient Outcome–An Employee Wellness Program Intervention
August 2017-ongoing
Purpose of this study is to determine the impact of a health coaching intervention on employee health and health care utilization rates.

ANEW (Aligning Nutrition Exercise and Wellbeing):
August 2017-Ongoing
This study focuses on an integrated, team-based health coaching model’s impact on health outcomes. ANEW is a program aimed at helping women improve their health through nutrition, exercise and wellbeing group coaching sessions. Sessions focus on increasing overall understanding of personal nutrition and exercise and supporting healthy lifestyle change through targeted goal setting. Certified Health Coaches, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist present education in a group format with ongoing coaching support throughout the 10 week program.

Bariatric Health Coaching Study:
April 2018
The purpose of this study is to assess health coaching impact on bariatric patient weight targets and surgical choices. Health Coaches meet with patients who are preparing for bariatric surgery as referred by their Primary Care Physician following the Bariatric Center protocol for surgery. Sessions will be conducted during the pre-op period and during the 3-months following scheduled surgery dates.

Wellness Coaching for Cancer Survivors:
March 2018
The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of health coaching for improving health, fitness, and overall wellbeing of cancer survivors. Clinical Health Coaches conduct 5 coaching sessions over a three month period to set goals associated with improving overall health. The coaching sessions are client-centered and focus on areas of wellbeing decided upon by the participant.

Health Coaching with the Veterans Administration
October 2018
The purpose of this study is to determine the comparative effectiveness of a health coaching intervention and the current VA MOVE program. Clinical Health Coaches work with at risk veterans over a 3 month period to improve body composition and reduce chronic disease risk factors.

Integration of Clinical Health Coaching into Health Care–Proof of Concept for a Value Based Payment Model (Under Review)
The purpose of this study is to provide a proof of concept for a value based payment system for third party reimbursement for clinical health coach integration into a health care setting, through the achievement of improved patient health outcomes and health cost savings, improved patient satisfaction with care, and demonstrated enhanced patient responsibility for their health.

Integration of Health Coaching into Physical Therapy Clinic (A feasibility study)
July 2018
The purpose of this study is to determine the feasibility of integrating health coaching services into physical therapy practice to enhance patient outcomes and reduce therapy complications.

Certificate in Clinical Health Coaching

In response to health care challenges, and in light of the need to create a rigorous program that meets the needs of health care professionals, in 2011 the University of Delaware formed a collaborative team representing physicians, nurses, psychologists, behaviorists, nutritionists, and pharmacists from major medical institutions and programs to create a post-baccalaureate certificate program in health coaching.  Working together the team identified competencies required of these nouveau professionals to best address the needs of the health care population, and how to best fit within the clinical setting.

Below is a list of competencies performed by Clinical Health Coaches trained in the University of Delaware Clinical Health Coaching Graduate Certificate program:

  • Assess patient predisposing, reinforcing, environmental, and enabling factors that influence client health behavior
  • Engage patients in behavior change protocols, goal setting, and program development
  • Develop and implement behavior change and chronic disease management programs via shared decision making with patient
  • Make appropriate referrals for patients who need more focused care
  • Track and assess patient progress in behavior change
  • Consult with patients about what they can actively do to improve their health
  • Motivate patients to adopt behaviors that improve their health
  • Educate patients about relevant health related issues and concerns
  • Develop patient skills to enhance self-management and on-going healthy behaviors
  • Work as part of an interdisciplinary team of health professionals within chronic disease prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation, and other chronic condition self-management programs.
  • Promote patient responsibility for their own health management
  • Communicate with other health professionals as required to maintain quality of care
  • Utilize Information Technology to monitor, motivate, and improve patient adherence to program plans
  • Maintain and utilize patient records as required

It was also deemed important that every student in the program have a supervised practicum experience in a clinical setting to develop their didactic skills.

The program is unique in its use of a Health Care Theater based final exam requiring students to demonstrate their competencies with a patient actor under the observation of program faculty.

Learn more about our Certificate in Clinical Health Coaching