This post is a follow-up to my last blog all about what exactly a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner is and what it’s like to work with one, which you can read here. I receive a lot of questions about the NTA program itself, because I know many of my readers are also interested in becoming NTPs or NTCs! In this post, I’m going to share all of my thoughts about the NTA!
Why did I choose to become an NTP? Why choose the NTA?
There are many different schooling options when it comes to pursuing your education in holistic nutrition, but I chose the Nutritional Therapy Association for a few reasons. The reason I was initially drawn to it, before I started really even looking at different program options, was simply because a lot of people I admire in the field are also NTPs. Certain types of practitioners have similar ideologies, and I felt like my own personal philosophies surrounding health and nutrition also aligned with many other NTPs. This was a few years ago when I started to listen to podcasts, and I noticed that a lot of the podcasters I often agreed with were also NTPs. Not exclusively, but it was a trend.
Meanwhile, when my health issues were at their worst a few years ago, I saw a number of different practitioners, including different western medicine doctors, functional medicine doctors, dietitians, health coaches, and NTPs. I personally made the most progress with my health when working with an NTP, and her approach really resonated with me. She focused on addressing the root causes of dysfunction and went beyond surface-level information, and I felt like that was the type of practitioner I wanted to be someday too. My personal experience definitely biased me toward the NTA.
When it was time to actually sign up for a program, I reviewed the curriculum at a few different places. Still, the NTA was what resonated most with me personally. It was important to me to find a program that took an ancestral approach and focused on a real-foods diet, and also one that emphasized bioindividuality. I also wanted something more in-depth and “science-y” than my health coaching program, because I wanted to learn more about the body’s systems and processes. I found these things with the NTA.
The NTA focuses on a properly prepared, nutrient-dense diet and addressing root causes by balancing the body’s foundations. It emphasizes bioindividuality and the fact that every person has unique nutritional needs. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, and I am wary of anyone who promotes that. The NTA focuses on natural healing by giving the body the proper building blocks it needs to rebalance itself. Nutrition and optimizing digestion are at the core of this – my two favorite things! The NTA takes an ancestral approach to diet and lifestyle and takes much of its teachings from the work of Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr. (I’m a huge Weston A. Price fan. #FanGirl)
The philosophy about proper nutrition was the most important thing to me when picking a program. People ask me why I didn’t take the RD route, and that’s the reason why. I don’t personally agree with that curriculum, so it wasn’t the best choice for me personally. When choosing a program, I encourage you to choose what resonates most with you and will help you reach your own personal goals – don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Being an RD gives you more flexibility legally and more opportunities depending on your state. If you want to work in a hospital, that requires being an RD. Becoming an NTP does not give you a license, so keep that in mind! I didn’t want to work in a hospital, and I also am not the type of person who can sit through schooling that teaches me things I don’t agree with, so it wasn’t the best choice for me. There are a lot of truly amazing RDs out there, but it just wasn’t my path!
I also chose the program because the NTA is known for creating a strong sense of community. When you join the NTA, you really find your tribe. People who get you and have the same goal of promoting true health. No one bats an eye when you’re eating sardines and organ meats, geeking out over flavors of ghee, spreading 50 essential oils out on your desk, testing out digestive bitters, and carrying around a container of supplements and travel olive oil. We’re all health geeks. The NTP program really bonds you with your classmates – you can’t practice functional evaluations on each other for hours on end without major bonding. Everyone is incredibly supportive and helpful, and everyone wants each other to succeed. It’s a really positive learning experience. Basically, it’s a great place to make lifelong friends!
The length of the program was another contributing factor regarding my decision to join the NTA. The NTP program is only 9 months, which is much faster than many other options. I loved that it was a shorter program because I was antsy to get my certificate! It does squish a lot of information into a short time period, but that worked for me. I was on the quarter system in college. ;P
My other main option was Bauman College, which is a longer program. I believe Bauman has slightly different nutritional philosophies than the NTA, but still very similar. I have many close friends who have graduated from Bauman College and absolutely loved it! It’s another great option, and they have a distance (online) option or in-person schooling where you’re in an actual classroom. Bauman also gives each student a mentor that they check in with throughout the program, so if you would like a longer program with more 1:1 attention, or would prefer an in-person setting, that could be a great fit for you.
Again, when it comes to choosing a program, pick what is best for you! There are many different options for nutrition programs, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer. Some people want to be licensed as an RD or CNS, others would rather pursue a health coaching certification, others want to pursue Chinese medicine or become a functional medicine doctor…. there are many paths to take!
What’s the difference between a health coach and a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner?
Definitions: A health coach is a coach who helps clients reach their health goals through food & lifestyle programs, which is also a main component of being an NTP. NTPs are trained to make nutritional recommendations to balance the body, as well as perform the functional evaluation to evaluate clients’ imbalances and nutrient deficiencies.
Prior to becoming an NTP, I was certified as a Primal Health Coach. There are many different health coaching programs, and I personally loved my health coaching program! I highly recommend it to others. Based on my personal experience and the experiences of friends and colleagues who have also been certified as health coaches, the NTP program is different from health coaching programs because it goes much more in-depth about the body and it’s processes. From my perspective, it’s more “science-y.” Health coaching programs typically teach you the “what,” and the NTA taught me the “why.” We’re also taught about nutritional supplementation, which I don’t think most health coaching programs cover. Additionally, we learn the hands-on Functional Evaluation. I saw the NTA as my continuing education past my health coaching program. The NTP program was also more work than my health coaching program.
In terms of the types of clients you see, most health coaches are typically helping clients with things like accountability, weight loss, basic digestive discomfort, stress management, clearing up skin, and the like, while NTPs tend to work with those types of clients as well as those who have more complicated cases or chronic conditions. That’s definitely an over-generalization, to be clear. Every practitioner is different, and you definitely can’t assume what type of clients someone sees based on their title. For the purposes of this blog post though, I’m going to make the generalization that NTPs typically see a wider variety of clients, probably because we learn about a wider variety of conditions.
Also, a key difference is that being a health coach doesn’t allow you to sit for the exam to become board certified in Holistic Nutrition, which is a goal for many NTPs. The NANP (National Association of Nutrition Professionals) has a list of programs that can be used as prerequisites to sit for the board exam, and the NTA program is one of them. This is probably because the curriculum of most health coaching programs isn’t as in-depth as other programs. So if you want to become Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, then you would need education beyond a health coaching program.
How does the actual program work?
The NTA program is 9 months long, and almost all of it is done online. For each module, you’ll get video lectures, audio lectures, PDFs for notes, required reading, quizzes, and essays. You also have to do book reviews on a number of outside books (most of which have become some of my all-time favorite books). You also have regular video conference calls with the other students and your instructors to talk about the content modules.
I get a lot of questions about the workload. I’m sure everyone has a different opinion on this, but I think the work can be pretty overwhelming because it can be time-consuming to get through everything. It’s important to stay organized. Before I did the program, people told me it wasn’t that much work, so I was a little surprised when I saw everything we were supposed to do. Then I started to realize that when it comes to the workload, it really just depends on what you choose to do. Like any type of education, people make different decisions about how much they’re going to put into it. The truth is that you can get through the program without doing all of the work “full out.” You could ignore the readings, for example, but you’re going to get more out of it if you complete everything. The amount of effort you put into the program is going to correspond to how prepared you are as a practitioner. It’s like college – there are some people who do EVERYTHING they are assigned and feel like they have a lot of work, some who do NOTHING and say it’s a piece of cake, and some in between. I think most people in my class (myself included) were pretty Type A, though, so many of us felt like there was a lot of work to be done.
Because the work could be overwhelming, I know a lot of us decided to just complete what we needed to get done to meet due dates, and then we went back later when we had more time to really go through the material. I definitely had to prioritize things, and I didn’t get a lot of the reading done on time. I think that if I didn’t have prior knowledge going into the program, this might have made it much more difficult. I think that someone who doesn’t have a prior background in nutrition / health education would probably need to make sure they completed more readings on time.
I went back and caught up on what I missed after things were due, but I honestly didn’t like not finishing everything on time. I’ve always been an overachiever in school, and this was the first time I ever got this behind on schoolwork. Obviously I turned in everything that was mandatory when it needed to be turned in, but I was late on the things that weren’t “checked.” That probably wouldn’t bother a lot of other people, but it bothered me because I’m used to being so punctual with everything! I had to be really disciplined with time management. It’s nice because there is plenty of flexibility with when you turn things in, but that also means that you need to hold yourself accountable so you don’t leave EVERYTHING until the last minute! If you have a full-time job, you’ll need to spend nights and weekends studying. That being said, you’ll probably end up overstudying (we all do) for the exams, but it’s worth it. If you are only focusing on the NTA and don’t have a full-time job at the same time, I don’t think you need to worry at all when it comes to time management.
I’ve been asked how many hours a week someone would need to dedicate to the course, and again, that depends. It depends how long it takes you to do readings and write some essays (these are short essays, so don’t be intimidated!). There are some things you can’t “speed up,” though, like video lectures, audio lectures, and conference calls. For instance, I always blocked out a full day each week to watch all of the video lectures, and sometimes I needed a second day as well. On those days, the only thing I did all day was watch videos. Then you can expect another 3 -4 hours for audio lectures (although again, it varies based on the module), an hour and a half for the conference call, and the time it takes you to do your readings for each module. You have required readings and then the outside readings for book reviews, which are regular “books.” I would pace out your outside readings so that you’re reading about one book a week / every two weeks, and that will keep you on track. The outside readings took me less time than the “required reading” – I’m a slow reader when it comes to things like anatomy. I only needed about an hour total each week to complete the quizzes and essays. Again, that was my own experience, and it’s different for everyone!
I was able to complete the program, but not able to do EVERYTHING on time, and my “commitments” at the time included my daily job meeting with clients, hosting two podcasts, writing my blog, running my Beautycounter and doTERRA business, and traveling A LOT. You can make it work! I had a lot on my plate…and if I can do it, you can definitely do it! I have an untraditional job in terms of my schedule, so I fit things in at strange times, and sometimes would have weeks where I didn’t do any NTA work and then weeks where ALL I did was NTA work. I’ve chatted with some of my friends who have more traditional schedules (working 9-5), and most of them said they just would have to study after dinner until bed and then spent the weekends doing work as well.
If you’re in the NTP program, you have three in-person workshop weekends (3-4 days long each), as well. These workshops are very long and exhausting – the first weekend I was not expecting to be as tired as I was. They are draining physically and emotionally. This is when you take your exams and learn the Functional Evaluation, and it’s also when you get to meet everyone in person! Like I said, this is where the real connections form. I was literally sobbing on graduation day.
Before I went into the NTP program, something I didn’t realize was how much the program is focused on the body’s systems, the Functional Evaluation, and learning to figure out the best supplements for different clients. I expected there to be a lot more about actual food and nutrition than there was. That’s where my prior education really came in handy. Also, every class is a bit different depending on the instructor and what the instructor chooses to focus on when they’re teaching. I personally didn’t realize how much emphasis was put on the Functional Evaluation in the course (I honestly didn’t even know what it was when I signed up), so I wanted to mention that here.
I’ve gotten asked if I think it was worth it to become an NTP instead of an NTC. For me, it was, even though I won’t really use the Functional Evaluation in practice very often since my clients are all online. However, I think knowing the FE and how to LNT for supplements are incredibly helpful skills to have. I also am really glad I had the workshop weekends with my peers and instructors in real life, instead of everything being online.
Also, I just want to mention that the NTA is completely redoing their courses. I feel bad because, taking that into consideration, I’m not sure how much this will help. For all I know, the course will be entirely different next year! But this was the experience I had in 2018.
Any tips for anyone starting out in the course?
Yes, a few.
- Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Be organized and stay on top of things! Make flashcards as you go, and study as you go. Even though there aren’t “strict deadlines” until workshop weekends, pretend there are so that you stay on track!
- Finish your practice client folders BEFORE the week of your workshop weekend so that you’re not stressed out about it and can focus SOLELY on studying for your exams. I recommend meeting with your practice client sooner rather than later!
- Listen to the audio lectures. They were “optional” for us, but so many of the essay answers were in the audios, and there is a ton of really useful, important information in there as well. I personally felt like I learned more from the audio lectures than the video lectures.
- Use part of your winter and spring breaks to do NO work for the NTA. Breaks are a great time to do catch up work, but you need some time to NOT THINK about nutritional therapy. Give yourself a true break and THEN use the rest of the time to catch up!
- Don’t be afraid to hop right in and chat with people at your workshop weekends. You only have three weekends together, and the time is going to fly by. No time to be nervous! Start bonding!
What job opportunities can you get as an NTP?
There are a wide variety of job opportunities available for NTPs! You can start your own practice, of course, but there are many other ways to use your certification. You can join an already existing practice and work alongside another practitioner like a doctor or acupuncturist, you could work as the nutritionist for a fitness center, you could be the on-staff nutritionist for a food brand or food company, you could write a book, start a blog or podcast, make a YouTube channel, you could become a personal chef, you could do nutritional consulting for restaurants or other businesses, you could work for the NTA itself, you could do any type of recipe development or food product development, you could consult for schools, write for a magazine or online publication, or look for other related jobs in nearby wellness centers. There are a lot of possibilities – you just have to think outside the box!
Being an NTP is a part of my business in many ways. Obviously, I have my own practice, but I also have a group coaching program (the Paleo Women Lifestyle Program), develop recipes and write health related articles for my website, and host a podcast (Wellness Realness). Like I said, there are many different routes you can take, and some people don’t even make it a career path at all. Some people just want the information for themselves and their families! There is no “right” way to do it, and no requirements!
I hope that gives a helpful overview of the NTA and what it’s like to become an NTP. I really do recommend the program, and I am so glad I did it! You’ll learn a lot about health, but also about yourself. Like I said, it was the best learning environment I have ever experienced. There was plenty of autonomy, but also plenty of support. The instructors want you to succeed and will do everything they can to make sure you do! Looking back, I definitely would not have changed my decision. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave them below!