I often get asked what exactly I, and others in the field of applied sport psychology, do with athletes. For anyone who is curious, here is my answer.
First let me be clear as to who typically works in the field of applied sport psychology as a professional practitioner. In Canada professionals trained in sport psychology who work with athletes, coaches, and teams are called Mental Performance Consultants (MPCs) and are certified through the Canadian Sport Psychology Association. As in most other countries, there are minimum requirements for educational and academic coursework being at least a master’s degree, completion of supervised practicum, and a code of ethics to adhere to as a certified Consultant. In addition, a certified consultant may also have further training and be a certified clinical counselor or registered psychologist. Just like professionals in other fields (e.g. doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers), years of studying to gain professional knowledge and experience are required. Consequently informed, ethical and effective interventions, guidance and education can be provided to athletes, coaches, parents, and support staff as clients in the world of sport.
Within my current scope of practice here is a simple list of what I personally do and don’t do when working with athletes:
- Collaborate and strategize with athletes’ around mental preparation and planning
- Address performance concerns such as improving focus, emotional management, stress, injuries, anxiety and dealing with performance pressure
- Ask questions that enhance self-awareness through reflection
- Encourage athletes to do more of what is already working
- Listen more than talk
- Advocate that small steps can lead to larger changes and desired results
- Look for exceptions to any current problems in athlete’s real-life experiences
- Focus on a language of solutions = positive, hopeful, and future-focused
- Draw upon athlete’s existing strengths and resiliencies
- Help athletes to expand options and consider different directions to take
- Keep everything discussed in one-on-one sessions strictly confidential
- Provide resources and mental training tools/techniques for athletes, coaches, or parents
- Co-create clear, concrete, and specific goals for athletes to work on between sessions
- Work with athletes in their daily training environments when possible to experiment with and apply mental skills
- Intervene or interfere with what is already working well for athletes
- Clinically diagnose, label, or pathologize
- Promise quick fixes or mental miracles
If you are interested in finding a qualified sport psychology consultant near you in Canada click here and for the United States click here.