What is Sport Psychology? What can Sport Psychology Consultants help with?
I often ask this question of those I speak with to gauge the audience’s understanding of the field I’ve dedicated my life to. It’s funny how many people assume it involves a couch for athletes to divulge their deepest, darkest secrets. The most accurate answers relate to the understanding of how athletes playing sports think and react to the sport. One of the aspects of sport psychology that drew me towards the field was the part about it being more strength based than clinical psychology. This refers to the point that the field focuses more on what is right about you than about what is wrong.
Sport psychology has recently been catapulted into the public with high profile athletes speaking out about mental health, but there is still confusion about what the field does. To be clear, clinical psychology typically deals with mental illness, and sport psychology typically deals with mental strength. While athletes do sometimes struggle with mental illness, most athletes have a lot of mental strength and are able to be resilient towards adversity. The field of sport psychology is more (not completely) focused on keeping athletes mentally strong. Losing tough games, constantly being critiqued by coaches, and working hard to improve skills can all take a toll.
When I am answering the question from potential clients about what sport psychology is and how it can help, I want to know more about the person asking the question.
I might ask the following questions to gain a better understanding about if my training will prove valuable to the client. What challenges do you face with your sport? How are you currently responding to those challenges? In what ways do you wish that you could respond better?
The answers to these questions can help get at the root of what we do in the field of sport & exercise psychology. With a doctorate in the field, along with earning the title Certified Mental Performance Consultant, with over 15 years of experience, I can comfortably say that I help guide athletes towards their most consistent and high levels of athletic performance. Similar to a coach, but specifically in the area of mental & emotional training.
The specifics that I help with depend on the answers to the above questions. The most common concerns clients bring to me include getting very nervous before competitions and losing confidence due to a performance setback or injury. The most effective ways to get around these issues is to re-train your mind to think differently when you encounter the trigger. Having a thorough
understanding of psychology is essential in helping athletes train their mind. The focus of training for sport psychology is different than general psychology in that my specialized training focused on the contextual intelligence of sport environment, teammate relationships, coaching relationships, and the pressure to perform under pressure, etc. These topics are not taught in general psychology.
If you are looking for help with sport psychology, I encourage you to consider the questions above to be clear about what help you’re looking for. Some professionals specialize in specific sports, while others may specialize in specific areas (psychology of injury), and some may focus more on the mental illness portion. A great resource to check out is the Association for Applied Sport Psychology guide for CMPC, Find a Certified Mental Performance Consultant® | Association for Applied Sport Psychology