Carissa Sietsema


Improving Mental Health Outcomes in Rural Appalachia Using Nutritional Psychiatry Informed Practices


Rural communities, especially those located in rural Appalachia, have high rates of both physical and mental health issues. Nutritional psychiatry offers insight on the role nutrition plays in mental health symptoms and their severity. This capstone presentation utilizes a tripartite approach towards bridging the gap between nutritional recommendations identified in nutritional psychiatry and its use as a realistic and accessible intervention. This presentation will focus on providing an overview of the capstone project, nutritional psychiatry, and factors unique to rural Appalachia. The interconnectedness between all three products will be explored in relation to the learning objectives. The presentation will first delve into the research process utilized in the systematic literature review and the findings on the effectiveness of interventions which are informed by nutritional psychiatry. The way in which the conceptual paper conceptualizes a new understanding of factors driving dietary patterns will be explored next. Finally, the findings outlined in the practice application paper and the implications for using nutritional psychiatry in practice will be presented.


Carissa Sietsema, graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree (BA) in Anthropology and a minor in Social Work from Northern Arizona University in 2015. After graduation she relocated to southern West Virginia where she pursued a career in Child Protective Services and later community mental health. She earned a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) in 2019 from Marshall University in Huntington, WV and is currently a doctoral candidate for the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Program at University of Kentucky. She has her own private practice called Ever Blooming Therapy Services LLC, which serves adults struggling with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and trauma in the states of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Florida. Throughout her career she has become interested in the role nutrition and nutritional disparities have on one’s health including mental health. She has seen these disparities firsthand as she witnessed clients struggle with diet related health issues and food access, causing clients to face serve health issues including death. This interest has inspired her capstone project in the DSW Program, where she has explored how to bridge the gap between the nutritional recommendations set forth in nutritional psychiatry and real-world factors that influence diet. It is Carissa’s hopes that the interventions gleaned from her capstone project can be used to improve the health of the clients she serves and of her community.