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 one or more of our psychologists, simply click on their name or names at the bottom of their headshots. This will automatically open their profile pages on new pages/tabs.
The section below contains some basic information on performance psychologists. Not only the performance psychologists who work for Condor Performance but also 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 …
For example, what is the difference between a performance psychologist and a clinical psychologist? How about the difference between a performance psychologist and a mental skills coach? In answering the first question, looking at their typical clients is probably most useful. A clinical psychologist is likely to work right across the population but predominantly assists individuals and groups with diagnosable mental health issues.
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 performers such as performing artists or exam takers. 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 domain, 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 greater chance that you end up with a bogus, ineffective practitioner than if you choose to work 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 psychologists 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, we know quite a number of “sport psychologists” here in Australia who work with no sporting clients. None, zero, nada, zip!
These practitioners still apply their skills in 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 are only two 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. Therefore, many psychologists who are passionate about working in sport and performance choose not to get the endorsement and simply accept that they will not be able to use the word Sport in their professional title.
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, we would be a very small team with 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.
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” poorly describes our team’s day-to-day work.
Condor Performance has been employing both performance psychologists and sport psychologists since 2005. We have a mountain of data that would allow us to easily see if those with one of these titles were ‘doing a better job’ than the other. Guess what? It appears to make no difference whatsoever in terms of the important stuff like client feedback, how much they improve, etc.