Do you love holistic health and nutrition? Do you devour book after book and podcast after podcast on wellness and the healing power of real food? Have you been on a journey of healing yourself by changing diet and lifestyle, and do you want to make more progress, or take it to the next level and start helping others around you to heal?
If you’re passionate about wellness and you want to have a career in nutrition, I highly recommend you sign up for one of the Nutritional Therapy Association‘s classes (tell them Rosemary Fotheringham sent you)!
In 2015, I graduated from a nine-month certification through the Nutritional Therapy Association to be a “Nutritional Therapy Practitioner” (NTP® for short). They’ve got classes all over the US, and even in Canada and Australia. I get a lot of the same questions about the program, so I’ve written out some of my answers here. This is my review of the program based on my experience!
What’s the NTA’s philosophy on food?
Unlike most other nutrition schools, the Nutritional Therapy Association does NOT lean vegan/vegetarian or mainstream low-fat, whole-grain conventional thinking. The philosophy of the teaching is heavily based on the nutritional pioneers, particularly the work of Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. Francis Pottenger, and with a belief that each person has their own bioindividuality that works for them. There’s no one size fits all, but there are certain commonalities of the diets seen in traditional cultures that we must follow if we want to enjoy the same robust health that they did! Some of the types of foods that are advocated in this program are foods that you are likely familiar with if you’re familiar with paleo or the Weston A. Price Foundation: bone broth, grass-fed meats and dairy, organ meats, fermented and cultured foods, sprouted/soaked/fermented grains, nuts and seeds, and so on. If you’re coming from the paleo/primal, real food, or WAPF lifestyles, you’ll fit in perfectly here.
What’s the structure of the class and how much time will I need to devote each week?
The basic structure of the program looks like this: there are 15 class modules in total, broken up into three chunks separated by a couple weeks’ break. Most of the modules last one week, although there are a couple that are two weeks long. Most of the course is done online, but there are three in-person workshop weekends throughout the year that you travel to, usually three full days. The modules are a series of video and audio lectures, required reading, and some short essay-writing/book reviews. Every other week, you have a conference call led by your lead instructor with Q&A and case studies.
The NTA recommends allowing 15-20 hours per week to complete the videos, audio lectures, required reading and homework. You are only tested on the content in the videos, so you don’t have to know the required reading backwards and forwards (phew!). It definitely is like a part-time job, but it’s doable. I worked full time at the same time. In the workshop weekends, you learn something called the Functional Evaluation (FE), which is a series of palpations on the body that are used for further assessment with clients. You also work with a practice client of your choosing throughout the year, applying what we have learned and developing a plan for them based on information gathered from an initial interview, food journals, and a Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire (basically an analysis of symptoms).
What is Nutritional Therapy and what will I learn? Is it a license to practice nutrition?
The modules start with the five “foundations” that we all need to have in balance for optimal health, and then further modules explore deeper into other systems in the body and how the foundations impact the health of those symptoms. Put very simply, we learn about how the body is supposed to function, what can go wrong, and what we need to do in terms of re-balancing the foundations to support that function. Since it’s not a license, as NTPs, we do not diagnose or treat, but we can look at signs and symptoms to get some clues about which systems of the body might need support, and we learn how to prioritize what we address first.
What does the NTP program cost?
As of this writing, tuition is $5400. Check the NTA website for NTP class costs. There are, however, materials that you need to purchase for the course, so keep this in mind when considering cost. All together, the cost of my materials worked out to be roughly another $600. This will change depending on what materials you might already own. Some of the bigger expenses were required books for the class, a massage table, a stethoscope, and a supplement test kit from Biotics Research (but don’t worry – this isn’t a big marketing scheme for Biotics. They encourage you to use other supplement companies as well, and only as a method of enhancing a properly prepared, nutrient-dense diet. Trust me, if this were some sort of scammy MLM pyramid scheme, I would have been out of there faster than you could say “bone broth”!). If you know someone who has gone through the course, I would recommend borrowing their books for the class and then deciding which ones you want to buy for yourself for your own reference library later. You will also need to factor in the travel and accommodation costs for the three workshop weekends.
Are there prerequisites or do I need prior experience?
You don’t need any prior schooling or experience in nutrition, food, health, or fitness before you do the program. You just have to sign up before the class fills up! And even though there are lots of other options for continuing certifications through other organizations after you’ve finished the course (like the GAPS Protocol), you don’t by any means have to do any other certifications after this to be qualified to help people! Doing the program gives you everything you need to know for success and to set up your own business right out of the gate. You’ll have all the knowledge you need to start your own practice.
Where are the classes held?
The NTA is growing quickly and has recently added lots of new locations so you can pick the one that is closest to you. Don’t wait too long, because classes fill up fast! Most of them are in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Vancouver, BC., Seattle, Bend) but there are also ones in San Diego, Austin, Denver, and Hartford, CT, and some international venues coming up soon, too. Some classes start in the fall and others start in winter. You can check the NTA’s website for the most up-to-date NTA class locations.
How do I pay for my tuition?
The NTA works with a credit union to provide loans, and you can get more information on that from them. During my year, there was a scholarship offered that was sponsored by Bragg’s (you know, the apple cider vinegar people!) I applied to that and won, (thank you, Bragg’s!), so that definitely made the burden of payment much easier! I would absolutely recommend applying for that scholarship when it rolls around.
What certification will I hold?
At the end of the program, you become a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP). The NTA offers another program, the NTC certification, which is basically the NTP program minus the Functional Evaluation. Personally, I have opted not to use the FE in our business, Flourish Fundamentals, since we take clients virtually, but it’s a skill I’m glad I learned, as it will be useful to use for myself and my family. If you do take the NTC program and decide later on that you want to learn the FE skills, the NTA also offers the Functional Assessment Development (FAD) program to learn them.
What can I do with my certification?
As NTPs, we cannot diagnose or treat, but we can educate and inform. We take “clients,” not “patients” (unless you already have a license to work with patients). But, you can still do a LOT. Some NTPs work alongside naturopaths or other functional medicine practitioners. Others work independently and take clients from their home or an office, or work alongside other alternative practitioners (chiropractors, acupuncturists). NTPs have gone on to do all kinds of things: write books, develop programs, teach group classes and seminars. A lot of it is up to you and what you decide you want to do. This isn’t something that you would use, for example, in a hospital environment like an RD or regular nutritionist, because they still subscribe to conventional wisdom about nutrition, such as fat, cholesterol, and red meat being bad for you. Evidence points to the contrary, and we learn in our class about WHY these things are not only not bad, but essential to the body’s proper functioning. But, that’s a big ship to turn around. For now, we have to do some swimming upstream. Don’t worry if you think you are too old to take the program: there were people of ALL ages in my class, from early twenties up to even sixties!
Should I do the NTA program?
When I was looking for a nutrition program, I wanted something that
- Wasn’t going to be too long (e.g. Bastyr looked good, but would take years, had a lot of prerequisites that I didn’t have, and was vegetarian-leaning), meaning I could get my own practice up and running quickly,
- Didn’t cost an impossible amount of money,
- Aligned with my worldview in terms of real-food and sustainability, and
- Was science-oriented and actually taught me about how the body works.
With the NTA program, I got all that, and more. If this is what you want, too, the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program is for you.
The website looks a little dodgy as of this writing, but I promise that the bones of the program are so solid — it’s powerful information that will help you and your family to heal! Deciding to go through the NTP program was one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever done, and I know the other people in my class would agree.
After going through my own health journey, losing weight and improving my anxiety, depression, skin and periods, eating real food became my passion and I decided that I wanted nothing more than to help other people get better too. The thing that most stood out to me in that first weekend is that feeling of finding your Tribe: people that are just like you, that get it, that have the same passions as you and often a similar personality. It’s a very intensive course, essentially two years of study packed into nine months, and so by the end, you are bonded to your classmates in an incredible way after having been in the trenches together! Like many important things in life, some parts were hard, but it was so worth it. I’ve developed friendships and connections that will last a lifetime. I have learned so much about how the body works and I feel empowered to take care of myself, my family and my clients. And probably the very best thing that happened was that I met my husband in the class – not a bad return on investment! If you want to start or augment your career in nutrition, I would absolutely recommend the program. Don’t worry if you think you don’t know very much now. They’re going to equip you with everything you need to know to be an effective NTP with a thriving practice.
I am more than happy to answer questions about the NTA or the NTP program! If you have questions, please write them in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to answer them, or shoot me an email using the contact form on my website.
If you do decide to start the program, be sure to write whoever told you about the program on the application, whether it’s me, Rosemary Fotheringham, or somebody else you know! If you do, I (or they) get a $100 referral credit, and I thank you for that!