There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about what Nutrition Therapy is and how it’s different from being a dietician. The biggest differences between the two are the educational/licensing requirements and the overall approach with our patients/clients.
For starters, Registered Dietitians typically complete both undergrad and graduate programs that have been accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They also have to complete a supervised practice program, pass a national exam, and then complete ongoing professional education requirements. They obtain a ton of formal training on nutrition (obviously), and usually go on to work in medical and health-care settings.They are licensed to practice in every state and most insurance companies will cover the cost of an RD.
Nutrition Therapists typically obtain a masters level certification, no undergraduate degree in nutrition required. We study clinical and holistic nutrition, in addition to a lot of other disciplines. We do a ton of research and work on a number of real-life case studies, and we apply the principles learned in school in our own homes.This graduate level certification usually takes about 2 years to obtain, with varying degrees of coursework and employment opportunities. Nutrition Therapists aren’t allowed to practice in every state and, depending on the state, our fees typically have to be covered directly by the patient and aren’t covered by insurance. Over time, with continued education, practice hours, and taking an exam, a Nutrition Therapist can become board certified by the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, an organization designed to further awareness of holistic nutritionists.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘Why are you telling us this Janelle? This makes you seem less qualified than an RD to work with people.’ I get that a lot… but I don’t believe that the education and licensing makes me any less qualified to work with you. I realize that I may not have the extensive education of an RD, but my education was also vastly different than theirs, and my approach is different too. Historically, the perspectives of reductionism and holism have been the biggest differing factors between dietitians and nutritionists. Reductionism in healthcare encourages practitioners to treat the symptom to bring comfort to a patient, whereas holism is the practice of finding and addressing the actual cause of the symptom in addition to providing relief of the symptom. A holistic approach is definitely not a quick fix solution as it looks to support the body in healing itself. Think of it as more of a total health overhaul, with complete balance of mind, body, and spirit as the ultimate goal. That’s why you’ll see me posting content on social media that extends beyond vitamins and recipes, your mind and spirit play a huge part in your in your overall health and well-being. Your mind and energy gives a lot of power to the food that you eat too, and it’s incredibly important to know that nutrition really does extend far beyond what you simply put on your plate and in your body.
When considering a nutrition professional to work with, be upfront about what your goals are and the approach of the professional you’re considering working with. If you have different beliefs, you may want to work with someone else. I know that I, personally, am not a fit for everyone and that’s OK, but I’m more than happy to help you determine what may work best for you. It all comes down to what your goals are and how you want to go about achieving them. Both are qualified in the field, both are passionate in serving others to improved health, we just took different paths to get there and have different approaches. ☺