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Condor Performance Blog - Performance psychologists

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So, you live in NSW or ACT and want to become a sport psychologist?

We get loads of people that email us and ask us this question. So many in fact that in recent months we’ve just started to copy and paste a reply. We thought it would be useful to add this advice to the blog and invite you to share your views via the comment box below.

“Various professions are protected by the law such as dentists, lawyers, architectures and psychologists. In other words these titles / labels can only be used by people who have met certain criteria. The regulation of the title psychologist and the word psychology for the promotion of paid services is the responsibility of AHPRA (The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). In other words using the title of psychologist when you are not one or implying you’re an expert in any area of psychology without being fully registered is illegal and AHPRA have the power to impose large fines for those that do.

NB: AHPRA have only been looking after psychology for a couple of years so it’s probably wise to be patient in terms of the lack of progress that has been made in cleaning up the “cowboys” who take advantage of the fact that the public are easily fooled by clever words (mind coaches) and attractive websites!

The first step therefore for anyone wishing to become a genuine sport psychologist is to get fully registered as a psychologist (the “sport” bit comes later). The most common pathway is to first do an approved psychology degree ( and then specialise for a further two years. This is where it starts to get complicated. Psychology is currently broken down into 9 different specialist areas (clinical, counselling, forensic, clinical-neuro, organisational, sport and exercise, educational and developmental, health and community) and in order to use one of these specialist titles (for example, sport and exercise psychologist) you need to be endorsed by AHPRA to do so. In other words you can’t use the title sport and exercise psychologist if you’re only endorsed as a clinical psychologist. This is relatively easy to police but things become tricky when various psychologists suggest expertise in a whole bunch of different areas that blend in with their own. For example if one of our athletes showed signs of a mental illness (i.e. alcohol abuse) we would refer that client onto a clinical psychologist as in our view their profession (sport) is less important than them being helped by someone who works on that exact issue five or six days a week (we don’t).

The big hurdle facing those that live in NSW and ACT and want to become sport and exercise psychologists is that the only way to get endorsed is by doing a Masters or PhD with the same name and there are currently none available in these states. Furthermore I’m told by reliable sources at universities in NSW that this is not going to change anytime soon as they would lose money.

How do you get around this bazaar flaw in the system? Well one way is to move to VIC or QLD and try and get onto one of their Masters (which I believe are very, very competitive). The other way is to stay in NSW and get fully registered via what is commonly known as the 4+2 pathway. In a nutshell this means instead of a Masters you get provisionally registered after completing your psychology degree and then for 2 years have a mix of “work experience” and supervision from a AHPRA approved supervisor (at Condor Performance we have one such supervisor who supervisors about 2 interns per year). Upon passing all the requirements of the 4+2 pathway you then can call yourself a psychologist.

Luckily when the types of psychology where being discussed the label “performance” was rejected instead of the word “exercise” to go with the word “sport”. The result of this is that those who have done their supervision with us can use the title “performance psychologist”. In other words Condor Performance is a firm of sport and performance psychologists in that some of our psychologists are endorsed to use the word sport (we don’t bother with the word exercise as it’s a very misleading label for what we do) and are sport psychologists whilst others are performance psychologists. Together this forms a group of sport and performance psychologists.

I did try to contact the good people at AHPRA earlier this year (2012) to ask about the legality of using the words sport only for performance psychologists but I never heard back from them. In other words given than the endorsed title is specifically “sport and exercise psychologist” can a performance psychologists go by “sport psychologist” and / or “sport and performance psychologist” or even “exercise and sport psychologist” as all differ from the endorsed label? If anyone inside or outside of AHPRA knows the answer to this question it would be great if you could write it below for the benefit of future readers.

So there you have it. To answer the title question in the simplest way possible move interstate or let us know if you would like to be considered to be one of our future interns.”

Comments / questions welcome below. CP 2012

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