Yes indeed – what a great question that is. What does a sports psychologist actually do? In summary we assist those involved in sport to improve both the mental side of their performance (mental toughness) as well as their overall mental health and wellbeing.
One thing is for sure – at the time of writing (February 2019) – a shocking number of those who use the protected title ‘sports psychologists’ are not actually qualified psychologists at all. A significant number of those working on the ‘mental side of sport and performance’ are embarrassingly under qualified. Most of these charlatans are taking advantage of the fact that far too many people involved in sport (parents, administrators) either don’t want to or don’t know how to check the credentials of their service providers.
Last year in Australia there was a shocking story about the organisation who were put in charge of the mental preparation of the Adelaide Crows AFL team during their 2018 preseason . To sum it up; not a registered psychologist in sight but plenty of pseudo-psychology taking place.
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself ‘but how do we know’ then this is what to do. Find out how to check if a psychologist is in fact a registered (chartered) psychologist in the country in which they’re located. In Australia this is a very simple two minute task using The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) online Register of practitioners tool. Most other countries in the developed world will have similar internet based checking systems.
Why is it more important for the psychologist to be registered in their country rather than that of the client? Psychologists are increasingly delivering sessions via videoconference technologies and due to this are becoming a profession Sans Frontières (without borders). At Condor Performance more than two thirds of our individual sporting clients are from other English speaking countries around the world. The fine print of our professional insurance is very clear that we’re allowed to work ‘worldwide’ as long as our clients know we’re registered psychologists in Australia and therefore would know which regulator to contact in the unlikely even they wanted to make a complaint.
One reasonable resulting question from all this might then be ‘why is making sure the sports psychologist is actually a registered psychologist so important?’ The answer to this question is both complex and controversial. But I would suggest the best response is similar to why your teeth would prefer you to see a qualified dentist and your children’s formal education are always better off in the hands of a certified teacher.
Another interesting observation from inside the ropes is the fact that the majority of sports psychologists don’t actually work with sporting clients after they become qualified. When I did my Masters of Sports Psychology at The University of Western Sydney (back in 2004, 2005) I was one of ten who graduated from the program. To my knowledge only two of us are currently focused on assisting sporting clients. That means that 80% are applying their sports psychology expertise to other areas. This begs the question – is there a better label than ‘sports psychologist’?
We think so and always have. Sport is a type of performance, in the same way that music is and many other non sporting purists (performance is not a type of sport). Hence if we were starting from the very beginning we’d likely be better off describing ourselves as either ‘performance psychologists’ or ‘sport and performance psychologist’. It should come as no surprise, then that these are the labels we chose for our exceptional team of psychologists.
For more on this topic have a listen to the answer to one of our Frequently Asked Questions “What Do Sports Psychologists Do?”