Nutritional Therapy

    If you are wondering how to become a nutritional therapist, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of alternative therapy, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Nutritional therapy work involves helping people to improve and maintain their health through diet and nutrition. They use their knowledge of food and nutrition to give advice on diet, which may encourage the body’s natural healing process.

    As a nutritional therapist, your initial session with a client would include:

    carrying out a detailed medical history, taking into account moods, stress, digestion, diet, exercise and family history
    conducting diagnostic tests – using hair samples and allergy testing
    encouraging clients to understand the link between diet and their own future health.
    When you have gained a true picture of the client, you would then provide one-to-one counselling, together with an individual therapeutic diet programme. This may focus on which foods to eliminate or increase, vitamin or mineral supplements and lifestyle enhancements.

    Your clients could be people of all ages with a wide range of conditions, including children with behavioural or weight problems.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of nutritional therapists include:

    empathy with your patients
    sensitivity to the needs of your clients
    a genuine desire to help people
    the ability to understand scientific and nutritional concepts and information
    the ability to communicate complex information and treatment plans
    good listening and negotiation skills
    a logical approach to problem solving
    the ability to keep an emotional distance from clients
    an understanding of when to refer a patient to a conventional medical practitioner.

    How to become a nutritional therapist
    To work as a nutritional therapist, there is no legal requirement for you to complete a specified course or join a professional register. However, to enhance your status with potential clients and employers, it is a good idea to work towards registration with the Nutritional Therapy Council (NTC).

    The NTC (a voluntary regulatory body) works closely with the British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT) and the Wholistic Nutritional Medicine Society (WNMS) to regulate the practice of nutritional therapy. You can join the NTC based on your experience, training or by completing an NTC accredited course. Generally, approved courses lead to a degree or diploma in nutritional therapy. To get onto a course you will usually need:

    at least five GCSEs (A-C)
    two or three A levels, possibly including human biology or chemistry.
    Please check with course providers for exact entry details because alternative qualifications may also be accepted. The NTC website in Further Information includes a list of accredited course providers.

    If you already have a degree you may be able to do a postgraduate course in nutritional therapy. However, some courses at this level target qualified medical practitioners or other state registered health care professionals, such as dentists, pharmacists, nurses or midwives.

    Training and Development
    Skills for Health (the Sector Skills Council for Health) has developed occupational standards for nutritional therapy which form the basis of NTC-accredited training courses. During training you will study areas such as:

    health sciences
    nutritional therapeutics
    practice management
    practitioner development
    clinical practice.
    Courses accredited by the NTC will also usually include a minimum of 50 hours’ supervised clinical practice with clients.

    As a qualified and registered nutritional therapist, you will be expected to maintain and enhance your skills and knowledge throughout your career. You can do this by attending lectures, seminars and workshops.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries can be around £15,000 a year
    With experience this can rise to between £20,000 to £30,000 a year
    The majority of nutritional therapists are self-employed and earnings can vary considerably. The rate for an initial session can range from £30 to £120 an hour. The hourly rate following this is on average around £50.

    Job Prospects
    Demand for nutritional therapy is increasing and you may find opportunities for work throughout the country within private practice, and occasionally with organisations such as prisons, the NHS and mental health groups.

    As a qualified nutritional therapist you are likely to be self-employed. To be successful you need to build up and maintain a sound reputation and client base. You will need to be prepared to market your business, which may involve working long hours at first until you have established your practice.

    With experience, you may be able to work in sport and leisure, healthcare sales or with food manufacturers developing recipes.

    Useful therapies resources:
    British Association for Nutritional Therapy (BANT)
    27 Old Gloucester Street
    WC1N 3XX
    Tel: 0870 606 1284

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