More successful lifestyle changes training program

Seminar teaches the six basic skills of wellness

Successful wellness mentors are made, not born says Judd Allen, PhD, president of the Burlington, VT-based Human Resources Institute (HRI). And he has set out to prove his theory with a comprehensive one-day wellness mentor training seminar.

"My initial concern stemmed from the fact that while 80% of the population attempts lifestyle changes annually, less than 20% are successful," says Allen. "We may laugh about New Year’s resolutions, but that’s a huge problem for health promotion; no company with an 80% failure rate stays in business very long."

To help boost success rates, HRI is targeting wellness committee members, wellness managers, nurses, and other health promotion professionals with his program. So far, he says, the response of attendees has been extremely positive. "The program has consistently been scored in the 99th percentile on our six-month evaluation follow-up; people say they’ve found it very useful," Allen reports.

Addressing failure

Two major issues contribute to the failure to make a behavior change, says Allen: Individual initiative and cultural support. In addressing individual initiative, Allen relies heavily on the "model," or the stages of change approach, developed by James O. Prochaska, Phd, author of Changing For Good.1 (See "Stages of Lifestyle Change," above.)

Individuals who attend the seminar are taught six basic skills:

How to set stage-appropriate goals. Trainees are taught how to determine where employees are in the lifestyle change process.

How to find appropriate role models. The best role models, says Allen, are people who have attempted similar changes and have had success. (See "Assessing Role Models," p. 108.)

How to eliminate barriers. Time, money, or other issues may stand in the way of change.

How to locate supportive environments. These are the kinds of places where employees are more likely to do well.

How to get an employee back on track. This involves re-establishing an adult-to-adult discussion. "People who fail often feel like bad children," explains Allen.

Celebrating success. How to make sure that when an individual achieves his or her goals, it continues to be rewarding.

The seminar, which lasts a full day, is divided into four equal parts. "The first part is devoted to establishing trust and openness," says Allen. "Second, we help the students get a clear understanding of the definition of wellness and what a mentor is. Third, we cover the six different mentoring skill areas; then, finally, how to apply what we’ve learned."

Attendees receive a resource guide that discusses these areas and information on additional books and articles. They also get a copy of the HIR video, "With a Little Help from My Friends," which was first issued last year and coincided with the beginning of the wellness mentor training program. The tape includes testimonials from people who have achieved successful change.

The fee for the program is $2,000 for hosting up to 25 participants. Interested individuals can contact either HRI or the Wellness Councils of America in Omaha, NE, which also is making the program available.

[Editor’s note: If you are interested in attending a wellness mentor training seminar or would like to be included in the wellness mentor data base, visit the HRI Web site at: Or, contact: Judd Allen, PhD, President, Human Resources Institute, 115 Dunder Road, Burlington, VT 05401. Telephone: (802) 862-8855. FAX: (802) 862-6389.E-mail:]


1. Prochaska JO, Norcross JC, DiClemente CC. Changing for the Good. 1994; New York: William Morrow and Company.