The public needs to know the difference between authentic sports psychology services and that which is often far different. The consumer needs to know what they are getting and to make informed choices before hiring a sports psychologist. This page is devoted to articles which explore the field of sports psychology, the real sports psychologist, reasons to seek professional help, and the many ways it helps.
The American Psychological Association or “APA” describes sports psychology as “a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations.” The APA goes on to assert that this field is a proficiency acquired after a doctoral degree in one of the primary areas of psychology, and a license to practice as a psychologist. They make it very clear that this proficiency does not include those who have earned a doctoral degree in sport psychology but are not a licensed psychologist.
Legitimate descriptions of this field and profession assert that Sport Psychology interventions are designed to assist athletes and other sports participants (e.g., coaches, administrators, parents) from a wide array of settings, levels of competition and ages, ranging from recreational youth participants to professional and Olympic athletes to master’s level performers.
By requiring that a sports psychologist has both a license to practice psychology, and extensive academic and experiential work in working with athletes and being supervised by another sports psychologist, there is extensive needed protection to the public. The public is protected by a minimum standard of care assumed with the acquisition of the license and additional specialized knowledge and experience. Consumers who seek sports psychology services need to know that their providers are qualified and the mandates of licensure and experience establishes a basic minimal set of standards.
The APA also makes some effort to describe these standards and the specialized knowledge that is needed in training. The knowledge that is required in education includes the following: “(1) Theory and research in social, historical, cultural and developmental foundations of sport psychology. (2) Issues and techniques of sport specific psychological assessment and mental skills training for performance enhancement and participation satisfaction. (3) Clinical and counseling issues with athletes. (4) Organizational and systemic aspects of sport consulting. and (5) Developmental and social issues related to sport participation.”
While the previous paragraph of knoweldge might seem relatively easy to acquire, this is not at all true. I’ve often been on record saying that becoming a legitimate sports psychologist is harder than going to medical school and becoming a physician! Going through a qualified doctoral program in psychology will cover a lot of these requirements, but it is usually a 5, 6 or 7 year process, and this does not even address the more specific sports psychology requirements. In short, training and experience needed to get into this field is extensive, but quite necessary when you think of the impact and benefits of sports psychology on people’s lives.
Now that you have a better idea of what is sports psychology, you might enjoy some of my posts in this area. In the past, I often wrote about what I call “real sports psychology” but that phrase is in fact redundant. If sports psychology is recognized from the beginning for what it needs to be, it is naturally real.
What is a Real Sports Psychologist?
What is Real Sports Psychology?
What it Took to Become a Sports Psychologist
Is Sports Psychology a Real Science?
The 10 Biggest Issues Seen in a Sports Psychology Practice
For Students Interested in Sports Psychology
72 Benefits of Sports Psychology and Psychotherapy
11 Secrets of Sports Psychologists from Mental Floss Magazine