What is a Nutritional Therapist?
Nutritional therapists help individuals alleviate health concerns through proper diet. Dieticians typical assesses a person’s nutrition, lifestyle, and works out a diet to follow to help the person eat healthier. They treat individuals with bowel, digestive, skin, fatigue, depression, and auto-immune problems.
A nutritional therapist does more than focus on how diet can affect a person’s lifestyle because they also look at other causes for poor nutrition. A candidate wishing to enter this industry will assess the individual with questionnaires, lab tests, dietary and health issues.
The main focus of a nutritional therapist is to assess the patient’s health and lifestyle habits in order to work out a nutritional and wellness plan. The therapist is on hand to offer guidance, work through setbacks a patient may have, and to help a person reach a point where they can make healthy decisions
The role and work of a nutritional therapist is fairly new to the industry because many practitioners take on a holistic approach to solving health problems.
A person in this field is not a doctor, but can work closely with doctors to ensure medical treatment is occurring in conjunction with proper nutrition. The goal is to help the person live the healthiest life possible through proper eating habits.
Why Do We Need Nutritional Therapists
It is common knowledge that Western cultures, particularly the United States, are facing health issues of a magnitude not previously seen. More and more people are coming to the decision to do something about a health or weight issue. The information available to the lay public is overwhelming, contradictory and confusing.
After trying and failing over and over again, most people give up, resigning themselves to a life of medication and discomfort. The truth is that the answer to managing health issues is much more complex. It’s not just about a pill or a superfood or enough willpower. It is so much more. Enter Nutritional Therapists.
Traditional health providers a generally trained in one area of health. Nutritionists or Dieticians understand nutrition and meal planning but are not trained in behavior change. Most mental health therapists understand behavior change but are not trained in nutrition.
Nutritional therapists are trained to address both the nutritional aspect of health management and the behavioral component required for sustainability. Using a holistic, mind-body approach, nutritional therapists are able to assess individual nutritional needs and develop behavioral interventions.
Having a single provider who can develop a cohesive plan and expertly address multiple needs maximizes the chances for success and utilizes resources effectively. The time for a multifaceted, high value approach to health management has come and nutritional therapists fit that need beautifully.
Where Does a Nutritional Therapist Work?
Many nutritional therapists have their own business. They create their work environment to be relaxing for themselves and their patients. Usually an office suite is used with a couple of rooms for a team of nutritional and wellness staff members.
Sometimes nutritional therapists may work in counseling offices, doctor’s offices, and hospitals. As an emerging career few work in hospitals at this time.
What are the Requirements to Become a Nutritional Therapist?
A bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition, counseling, health psychology, medical, or science is necessary. It is a four year degree program with core studies and electives. Most electives may relate to courses in psychology, counseling, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition. Some individuals may add exercise courses such as fitness and personal training.
The Certified Clinical Nutritionist Exam requires candidates to have a Bachelor’s of Science or similar degree with 3 hours of study each in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology, human biology, and biochemistry.
Additional coursework includes introduction to nutrition, nutrition and disease, assessment, counseling strategies, supplementation, herbology, and aging. Additionally for the CCN the PGSCN (post graduate studies in clinical nutrition) program must be completed. Information on certification can be found at Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) website.
Necessary Skills and Qualities
A background in science is imperative to this field, for an understanding of the body, how it works, and how different foods can affect mood, weight gain or loss, as well as certain health disorders.
A candidate should be able to listen and be a helping hand to patients by truly caring for those they help. Someone who can adjust to the needs of the patient, while firmly supporting the outlined plan will also be successful.
Opportunities for Advancement
The Bachelor of Science degree may open the possibility of continuing education in health care fields such as CNA, RNA, PhD, D.Sc., and related fields.
Advancement in hospitals or private clinics may lead to supervisory and managerial positions. There is also the potential for advancement in owning a clinic once experience is learned from private clinics or hospitals.
What is the Salary for a Nutritional Therapist?
As of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary for dietitians and nutritionists is around $65,620. However, it is possible to earn closer to the national average of $38,000 per year for new nutritional therapists, while some of the higher paid professionals can earn over $90,000 per year.
What is the Job Outlook for Nutritional Therapists?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) indicated a 7% increase in the field by 2030. A 5,100 increase is projected for 2030. This already shows how demanding the industry is becoming for more professionals.
Dieticians and therapists have been around for several years; however, combining nutrition and therapy is more recent. The need for healthier human beings is driving the combination of nutritional therapy to grow at a fast rate.
Additionally the BLS states the current generation heading into retirement will demand more dietary services including nutritional therapists. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and private medical practices will start adding more positions for this career industry.
The Centers for Disease Control also feel the job outlook is looking positive according to the BLS website. With one-third of Americans at an obese weight, focus will be placed on preventing more serious illnesses for Americans.