What is a Sport Psychologist?

A Sport Psychologist must first of all be a licensed Psychologist. This means that the professional has a doctoral degree in psychology and has passed the licensing requirements in the state in which they practice. Most states require a licensed Psychologist to have two years of supervised practice and to pass a licensing exam. Each licensed Psychologist is required to display their licensed number for clients to see. In addition to the licensed Psychologist requirements, ethically, a Sport Psychologist must also have advanced training in sport and performance psychology. This can be in the form of coursework, but ideally should also include supervised work to demonstrate competence in the sport and performance settings.  Having a certification from a bonafide organization would also indicate competence. For example, the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) offers a certification. To be a certified consultant, the professional must satisfy course work requirements and have 400 hour of supervised work. Individuals who do not meet the above licensing standards cannot legally call themselves Sport Psychologists. For example, those with training or degrees in Sport Psychology cannot refer to themselves as Sport Psychologists or Sport Psychology consultants since these terms are protected by law for use only by licensed Psychologists in most states. Non licensed practitioners with sport psychology degrees or advanced training could legally refer to themselves as Performance Consultants or Mental Skills Trainers.

What does a sport psychologist do?

Sport Psychologists are uniquely trained in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a broad range of mental health issues that can inhibit maximum human performance. In addition, Sport Psychologists can assess performance related factors and apply psychological, cognitive, behavioral, emotional and /or psychophysiological techniques that facilitate maximal performance in both athletic and performance domains.  Sport Psychologists can work directly with athletes, groups, teams, coaches and/or sport organizations.  This may include youth, high school, intercollegiate, elite, Olympic, professional and recreational levels.  The types of service Sport Psychologists could provide are assessment, psychological skills training, performance enhancement techniques ( i.e., goal setting, emotional regulation, confidence, visualization, high performance mindset ), injury recovery, career transitions, team building, character development, team building, parent training, and/or coach education.

Sport Psychologist’s interventions are also appropriate for performance domains (i.e., actors, musicians, chess players, business personnel, military and special operation forces). Actors, musicians and chess players often struggle with performance anxiety. Business personnel and organizations, military and special operation forces could all benefit from developing high performance mindsets.

Relevant links:

APA Div. 47: Society for Sport, Exercise & Performance Psychology

What Is Exercise Psychology and Sport Psychology?

Association for Applied Sport Psychology