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Praising God and Offering Thanks for Whole Health

Veteran Reverend James Mitchell playing Pickle Ball.

Veteran Reverend James Mitchell playing Pickle Ball. Photo credit: Rick Barbero - The Register-Herald.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

“I was a walking billboard for pain before I met Ms. Dobson,” says Reverend James Mitchell of Bluefield, WV. After several foot surgeries, sciatic nerve issues, and 40 years of smoking, Mitchell was using a walker, he was stressed out, and his quality of life was at its lowest point when he started his Whole Health journey with Nicole Dobson, Whole Health Coach at the Beckley, West Virginia VA Medical Center. “I was in so much pain, and I just knew that God did not want me to live like that,” he said.

Mitchell explained that he did not want to be defiant, but when he was prescribed pain medications, he said there had to be a better way. Ms. Dobson worked with Mitchell to take a deep dive into the Circle of Health, a tool used by VA Whole Health coaches and others to help Veterans to see what areas of their life they are doing okay, and which areas could use some improvement. “She asked me what I wanted to accomplish, and at that point it was to quit smoking, manage the pain, and have a better quality of life,” he said.

“Mr. Mitchell was very dedicated and he really got to know himself,” says Nicole Dobson who is a Certified International Health Coach. “When it came to him giving up the smoking, it was an example of him stepping out on blind faith. Smoking was almost like a best friend to him, yet he was motivated and ready to change. He is the one who did the work, I was just there letting him talk out his challenges.”

Because he committed to the hard work of setting goals, weekly coaching sessions, acupuncture and yoga; Mitchell has been 18 months smoke-free, he no longer uses a walker or even a cane, his pain is manageable, and his life has blossomed in the ways that matter to him. He is a pastor for the IPS Memorial Chapel in Bluefield, WV, a level 2 Service Officer for the Disabled American Veterans in Princeton, WV, and a fierce advocate for Whole Health.

“I would recommend that any Veteran work with a Whole Health Coach,” he said, “Talking with Ms. Dobson once a week really helped me when I decided to quit smoking. She said, ‘You have the mindset to quit and I have the desire to help you.’ She worked with me even when I slipped and helped me identify triggers and barriers to achieving my goals.”

VA has trained close to 2,000 staff to be Whole Health coaches across the VA Health Care System. Coaches work with Veterans one on one and sometimes in groups to help them in the following ways:

  • Develop a personalized health plan that is based on what matters most to the Veteran; the plan is based on the Veteran’s own goals, values, preferences, and lifestyle.
  • Partner with the Veteran with proactively taking action toward behavior change that is present and future-oriented.
  • Recognize that health is much broader than the absence of disease. The emphasis is on health enhancements/strengths rather than disorders/weaknesses.
  • Seek to support the Veteran in achieving the Veteran’s standard of optimal health that takes into account the mental, physical, and social well-being of the Veteran.

Dobson works with about 15 – 20 Veterans every week helping them to set and achieve their goals and referring them to health care options that were once considered “alternative,” but are now complementary to traditional clinical care.

Whole Health is VA’s cutting-edge approach to care that supports your health and well-being. Whole Health centers around what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. This means your health team will get to know you as a person, before working with you to develop a personalized health plan based on your values, needs, and goals.

Find out how you can #LiveWholeHealth from home through VA’s ongoing self-care blog series. This series highlights Whole Health resources—such as video sessions for yoga or meditation—that you can follow along at home to live healthier and happier.

“God is my support group, and my Whole Health coach is the person who helps me live my best life, and give back the way I want to,” said Mitchell. “We need more Veterans to learn about Whole Health, and I will be the billboard for its success.”

For more information on Whole Health and access to Whole Health service, visit


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