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New certificate program teaches dietitians skills to elicit change

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Lindsey Hadlock

Cornell University’s director of wellness, Beth McKinney, has developed an online certificate program for registered dietitian nutritionists. The Nutrition Counseling certificate provides RDNs with client-directed counseling techniques they can use to elicit clients’ best thinking and results. Each course in the program provides six Continuing Professional Education (CPE) units for a total of 24 CPEs.

McKinney, a certified health education specialist and RDN who teaches an undergraduate course called Nutrition Communications and Counseling to upper level dietetics majors, has distilled her experience, and social cognitive learning theory, into an online program that allows RDNs to systematically learn, practice and hone their counseling skills.

“There’s a gap between the nutrition knowledge we learn in school and our ability to help clients make real changes. Even if most RDNs learned client-directed counseling, many haven’t had sufficient opportunities to practice it. These courses provide not only the techniques to transform behavior, but also videos in which practitioners can see counseling in action,” said McKinney, MSEd, RDN, CHES.

The Nutrition Counseling certificate, offered through eCornell, is comprised of four online courses that can be completed in three to five hours per week:

  • Getting into the client-directed counseling mindset with tools to develop self-awareness.
  • Mastering new, empathic ways to respond to clients that elicit more information and uncover problems from their perspective.
  • Motivational goal setting techniques that bring out clients’ best thinking.
  • Translating nutrition information to diverse clientele, using your authentic voice.

The program is open only to RDNs in the U.S. Students who complete all courses receive a Nutrition Counseling Certificate from Cornell’s Division of Nutritional Sciences.


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