This blog is mainly interested in the connection between mood disorder, such depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD and nutrition. Articles are for educational purposes only. Self-help therapy should only be in partnership with qualified health care practitioners

Thursday, December 4, 2014

by Jurriaan Plesman, BA(Psych), Post Grad Dip Clin Nutr.

I would like share with you how I personally got involved in nutritional therapy.
With me, it all started off - now many years ago - with having anxiety attacks. In the end, I started suffering from depression. It got so bad that I was fearful to go outside my home. If you would describe my symptoms in diagnostic terms of today, it would have had anxiety attacks, clinical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (because of my WWII war experiences), but my diagnosis of the time was that I was simply “neurotic”.
I went to psychiatrists, and they pumped me full with psychotropic drugs. The result was that I became dependent on drugs, and that I became an iatrogenic drug addict. In my days - about 50 years ago - you had mainly tranquillising drugs like Nembutal and Valium. Nembutal is a very potent drug, with little difference between dose and overdose. Hence, I accidentally overdosed a couple of times.
I was really lucky that I was a reader of books. I came across a book by Roger Williams by the title of Nutrition Against Disease, telling us that hypoglycemia can cause drug addiction.
I went on a hypoglycemic diet and, lo and behold, I started to feel immediately better. At the time, I was working as a student volunteer in drug rehabilitation centre. I immediately passed on this information to my clients, and they also recovered very soon. After I finished studying psychology at the University, I realised that nutrition had a much bigger role to play in one’s moods.
Now it must be understood, that nutritional therapy does not work like drugs and have immediate effects. If you want to withdraw from drugs, you'll need to first treat the biochemical abnormality which is responsible for the symptoms of mood disorders. After all, you can't cure a physical disease by talk therapy. This may take between three weeks or one year depending on the drugs and/or the particular illness for which you have been using them. The important point is, that you do not change your medications without the approval of your doctor. Withdrawing from drugs, whether legal or illegal, can be lethal!
It was soon thereafter, that's my clients reported these findings to their supervisors in the Probation and Parole Service of NSW. Soon, a very progressive director of Probation And Parole Service at the time contacted me, and ask me if I was interested in getting a job in the Probation Parole Service.
So, I started a career as a Probation And Parole Officer in New South Wales with the specific object of rehabilitating drug addicts in the prisons department. It is to be understood, that 85% of prisoners have an addiction problem as a co-morbid condition of their offence. Drug addiction is often a sign of a more fundamental mental illness. It is merely self-medication. This means, In effect, that most of prisoners in jail have a mental disorder that caused them to be in jail. Thus, prisons have replaced the old-fashioned mental hospitals.
As I arrived at my new job, I was already running groups for drug addicts and mentally ill people mainly at nights. So my group members consisted of both clients of the prison department and private clients. The department had no objections to this. For this was part of preventing the rise of the prison population in New South Wales. Moreover, parents and family members of clients could participate in the group. So they became part of the rehabilitation team. By the way, how groups were run is described in my book “Getting Off The Hook” (…). This book is freely available in whole on Google Book Search FREE OF CHARGE. My groups were basically about teaching people a combination of nutritional influences on behaviour and self-help psychotherapy. This would enable them to do their own therapy or help their friends to do the same. The course would aim at you becoming your own psychotherapist.
It was at this time, that I started to study for a post graduate diploma course in clinical nutrition. Just as well, because within the department there was a growing opposition to the idea that one could treat mentally ill patients by nutritional means. Many, but not all, of my colleagues in the Probation and Parole Service scorned me “feeding bananas” to clients.
The argument ran, that I was not a qualified nutritional psychologist. There is no such profession by the way. Psychiatrists, as represented by the RANZCP, started to criticise the department that I - a Mr Jurriaan Plesman - was playing psychiatrist, for which he was not qualified. I told them that I had a Post Graduate Diploma In Clinical Nutrition, but to no avail.
It was argued that a Postgraduate Diploma In Clinical Nutrition was not a necessary qualification as a Probation and Parole Officer (PPO).The local director of the Probation Parole Service in my area, was fully aware and personally approved of what I was doing to help my clients. But as he said, as a local director of a state department he had very little influence on policy.
The Director of RANZCP went so far as to apparently write a letter to the director of the Probation and Parole Service (PPS), that I be stopped or perhaps dismissed.
The immediate head of the Probation Parole Service in my area had been instructed to stop me from helping clients with nutritional therapy or running groups. I told him, that I was not prepared to tell a client I was not allowed to tell them why, if they couldn’t, for instance, sleep, that there was a simple nutritional remedy for insomnia. Thus, the department set in train to get rid of me. In a public department you can only be sacked for a misdemeanour.
The only way of getting rid of a public servant in a department is by making one’s job as uncomfortable as possible. So they sent me on country duties. This meant I had to travel all over NSW which would supposedly interfere with my family relations.
However, it happened to be the case that my wife and I enjoy travelling in the countryside in a caravan. We simply enjoy the countryside and going bush. So in the latter part of my career as a Probation And Parole Officer we travelled around the country from place to place where there was a probation service. My immediate area director told me privately, that he couldn’t prevent me giving advice to my clients about nutritional treatments, however he expected me to do so in an unofficial capacity.
My experience of practicing clinical nutrition in a public department shows how official policy by governments for preventing mental illness and criminal behaviour by nutritional means is simply non-existent. And this seems to be the case at all over the world. It is not far fetched to believe that this is due to the overall influence of commercial pharmaceutical companies that control governments. The USA - one of the most supposedly modern countries in the world and seemingly at the heart of behavioural science – may well be regarded as the worst example.
Yet, there are many more medical practitioners – familiar with nutritional medicine – around the world, that are able to help people overcome their mood orders without necessarily resorting to toxic drugs. One may wonder, are they a threat to pharmaceutical conglomerates? This is not to say that drugs can't be used under any circumstances. In case of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia drugs are still necessary at this stage of our knowledge.
Nutritional therapy can only happen, if most people in the community are educated enough to know the connection between nutrition and mood disorders.
Wouldn't be wonderful to live in a society, where making a buck is less important then being healthy, where the power of science is more important then selling drugs for the sake of selling. When are we going to live in a society where science helps us making more rational decisions as to where we are going?
It is all a matter of education. Living in a society where education is being downgraded, there seems to be little hope for improvements.
Nevertheless, it is up to the individual in society to make decisions regardless of his or her environment. It is up to the individual to look after his own health with the help of appropriate well educated health practice practitioners and who are up to date with their health science. It is up to you - the individual - to choose.
NOTE: I must admit that the alleged dismissing of me from the Department of Corrective Services is real or imagined. The fact remains that I was not allowed to teach Clinical Nutrition and Psychotherapy.
Perhaps a more objective account of my experiences as a Probation and Parole Officer is given by in Dr Jay Harley’s book ( “Where Two Ways Meet: Probation and Parole Services in New South Wales – Their organisational history and development” in pp 228.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing experience. This post is very helpfull to me as I'm considering blending my nutritional counseling practice with psychotherapy to maximize benefits for my clients.

    1. I hope you do so: We have a self-help psychotherapy course at:

      Self-Help Psychotherapy Course

  2. very inspirational Jur... i have only started my psychology degree this year but i am already looking ahead and hoping i can get involved in nutritional psychotherapy in some capacity in the future... i'm expecting the same resistance you faced of course... anyway thank you for your guidance over the years via email and the forums. J.

  3. Yes, you will find a job as a psychologist it Is far more satisfying, if you combine it with a course of clinical nutrition. I hope you will succeed and thanks for the compliment