While some of the research informing these two fields overlaps, the fields of Nutritional Psychology and Nutritional Psychiatry are complimentary but different. The field of Nutritional Psychiatry is generally concerned about researching the connection between diet and mental health, including possible clinical intervention (diagnosis and treatment) in patients who suffer from psychiatric disorders including depression and anxiety. Nutritional Psychology offers a broader conceptualization of the relationship between dietary and mental health by including the psychological, cognitive, perceptual, behavioral, psychosocial, interoceptive aspects of human functioning.
NP is an interdisciplinary field that spans the fields of psychology, nutrition, and education. NP is aligned with principles of integrative health, and the newly emerging healthcare approach referred to as ‘whole health’.
Nutritional psychology uses evidence-based research to inform and guide the development of the field, but the specific tools, methods and concepts used in Nutritional Psychology education have not yet been validated through research. The APA approved continuing education courses in Nutritional psychology have been taught to mental health professionals, nurses, educators, counselors, and veterans with positive feedback and results.
NP does not involve treatment, intervention, or cure. Rather, it combines information in nutrition science with psycho-educational tools to build an individual’s internalized awareness of how the foods they are consuming contribute to the way they feel. This process advocates for an internalized shift in one’s understanding of the benefits of eating for nutritive value, rather than for convenience, impulse, and perceptual triggering. In doing so, NP aims to bypass some of the failure-prone demands associated with navigating the western diet (i.e., willpower and control). Nutritional Psychology is designed to be complimentary and in addition to standard medical interventions and treatments supportive of mental health.
NP is not designed to treat or cure mental illness, nor is it designed to replace therapeutic interventions by professionals trained to intervene in mental health disorders, illness or mental crises. NP is designed to guide individuals through an educational process that increases their awareness of the effects that their daily dietary intake patterns are having on their mood, sense of well-being, and mental health. This educational process provides a piece of the puzzle for supporting mental health, but is never to be used as a substitute for psychiatric or medical interventions. If you or someone you know are suffering from suicidal thoughts, please seek medical attention immediately. Nutritional Psychology cannot be used to cure or treat mental illness and clinical disorders.
There is no formal title of “Nutritional Psychologist” in existence today. CNP has been working to develop the specialty of Nutritional Psychology, and advocate for its use in the future of mental healthcare. We have been developing the educational curriculum for students and mental health professionals, methods, concepts and tools to inform the field, and practice guidelines and standards for certification and licensure in Nutritional Psychology Education.
CNP welcomes contributors with professional education and/or experience in NP-related areas to contribute to the development of the field. If you are interested in a volunteer position, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CNP developed the first university-based curriculum in Nutritional Psychology for the Continuing Education (CE) program at John F. Kennedy University in 2008. This program evolved over the last 12 years to include a 7-course, online certificate program provided to mental health professionals, educators, dietitians, health coaches, and interested individuals. In 2020, the authors of the JFK certificate elected to remove this long-standing program to make way for vastly updated course content and evolved methodology in the field of Nutritional Psychology. CNP is working to provide mental health professionals, interested individuals, and other allied health professionals with updated courses in Nutritional Psychology beginning in early 2021.
Yes, however, the current JFKU certificate in Nutritional Psychology is currently being ‘taught out', which means that the authors of the program have decided to phase out the certificate in lieu of developing new and updated curriculum. Only students currently enrolled in the program will be allowed to complete it. The certificate will continue to be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) for psychologists, The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) for MFT’s, LCSWs, LPCCs & LEPs, and the California Board of Registered Nursing for RNs, until the last student has completed the certificate. CNP's new curriculum will be out sometime in early 2021. Check back for updates!
Although developed by the cofounder of CNP, the materials in the online JFKU courses are now outdated. CNP is recommending that interested students wait for CNP's next-generation curriculum in NP (available in 2021). Until then, you can utilize CNP's website (watch here for a video introduction), online Research Libraries containing over 1,000 research studies informing the field, and viewing the monthly Diet-Mental Health Breaks (2 minute animated videos explaining cutting-edge research) developed by CNP and leading researchers.