At Condor Performance we currently use the services and expertise of a number of sport psychologists and performance psychologists located in a variety of different locations. To learn more about each of our psychologists click on their name at the bottom of their headshots below to view their profile page.
The section below contains some basic information on performance psychologists. Not only the performance psychologists who work for Condor Performance but this growing profession at large. We will also explore some of the differences between performance psychologists and other similar-sounding professions.
How Do Performance Psychologists Differ From …
What is the difference between a performance psychologist and a clinical psychologist for example? How about the difference between a performance psychologist and a mental skills coach? In answering the first question it’s probably most useful to look at their typical clients. A clinical psychologist is likely to work right across the population but predominantly assist individuals and groups with diagnosable mental health issues. There are too many to list here but the most common would be various types of depression, anxiety and stress disorder.
But the clients of a clinical psychologist would really have anything else in common. This is not the case for performance psychologists. Our clients are very likely to be performers of some description. They can be sporting performers or non-sporting performance such as performing artists or exam takers. And although as qualified psychologists we are quite capable of helping these performers with both mental health challenges as well as the mental aspects of the sport or performance area it’s likely that we would do much less work (as a percentage) in the mental health space compared with a clinical psychologist.
So Like A Mental Skills Coach Then?
What is the difference between performance psychologists and mental skills coaches? Probably the simplest answer is between six and eight years of formal education and training. This is not to say that all mental skills coaches are dodgy charlatans. It means that because the term is unprotected and unregulated there is a much greater chance that you end up with a bogus, ineffective practitioner compared with if you are working with a psychologist.
Are Sport Psychologists and Performance Psychologists The Same?
Almost but not quite. A good place to start would be to talk about why some of our psychologists are performance psychologists whilst others are sport psychologists. In Australia only those who have been endorsed by the regulator AHPRA can use certain protected words before the term psychologist. Psychologists with general registration can be endorsed in one or more of these nine areas of practice:
- clinical neuropsychology
- clinical psychology
- community psychology
- counselling psychology
- educational and developmental psychology
- forensic psychology
- health psychology
- organisational psychology, and
- sport and exercise psychology.
Of the nine specialty areas, the final one is both the most deceiving and the most limiting. It’s deceiving in that we almost never assist our clients with physical exercise. Logic would dictate that if psychologist were to be involved in an area such as improving exercise this would fit more naturally into the Health Psychology endorsement area.
Furthermore, as I recently explained to fellow sport psychologist Dan Abrahams in Ep.103 of his podcast The Sport Psych Show sport is just one of many types of performance. In fact, I am aware of quite a number of “sport psychologists” here in Australia who literally work with no sporting clients. None, zero, nada, zip!
These practitioners still apply their skills in very performance-orientated settings such as the performing arts or the military. The limiting factor of the sport and exercise psychology endorsement area here in Australia is that there is only one Sport and Exercise Psychology Masters remaining. I am not aware of how many masters each of the other eight specialty areas has but I suspect it ranges from half a dozen to dozens. If you happen to be reading this and you know what the number is in 2021 please add these stats via the comment section below.
Due To The Above Reasons …
Due to the above reasons if Condor Performance insisted that all of our consultants were endorsed sport and exercise psychologists, then we would be a very small team and have a very long waitlist. The term ‘performance psychologist’ has several benefits from our point of view. Firstly it is a term that can be legitimately used by any registered psychologist who feels that they are adequately equipped to assist a vast range of performers. This is the way that it’s done in New Zealand. As the term sport psychologist is not limited to a tiny section of psychologists in New Zealand, then any psychologist who feels competent to assist athletes can use this term. This is absolutely the case for our Kiwi colleague Dr Charlotte Chalmers.
The second benefit of the collective term performance psychologists is more logical. It does a much more effective job of describing the work we do. If on any given day one of our psychologists does a session with an athlete, a session with a politician, a session with a student, a session with a sporting coach and a session with a slightly anxious surgeon then this is actual performance psychology. Sport psychology or sport and exercise psychology would do a very poor job semantically of describing the work our team do on a day to day basis.
So why then do some of our psychologists, namely Gareth, Michelle and Charlotte (soon to be joined by James and Harley) refer to themselves as sport psychologists and not performance psychologists. The answer is fairly simple. Because they have earned the right to and they want to.