It is important for athletes to understand that the biggest battle we have is the one against ourselves. Our mind tells our body what to do, but our head can get in the way of that. When seeking assistance for the mental side of your performance, you may come across several practitioners with different titles. There are some key distinctions you’ll want to be aware of when deciding who to work with.
What is Sports Psychology?
- Sports psychology is the study of how participation in sport and exercise affects psychological and physical factors, and how psychological factors in turn affect sport performance.
- In addition to the development of psychological skills for performance improvement, applied sports psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building and career transitions.
What is a Sports Psychologist?
- In Alberta, psychologists must have a Master’s degree in Psychology from an accredited University (this typically works out to 8 years of post-secondary training). A Sports Psychologist is also a licensed Registered Psychologist or Registered Provisional Psychologist through the College of Alberta Psychologists.
- They train mental skills to develop internal capabilities that help an athlete improve performance by learning to control their minds efficiently and consistently. These can include Visualization, Relaxation, Self-talk, Goal Setting, Emotional Regulation and Emotional Control.
- They can also help athletes through clinical issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidal ideation, behaviour modification and grief.
What is a Sports Psychology Consultant?
- Sports Psychology Consultants are also known as mental performance coaches, athletic performance coaches or performance enhancement consultants.
- They also work with athletes to improve performance through mental skills training and provide individual or group consultations geared towards performance-related issues.
- Consultants are professionals trained in sport and exercise but are not licensed psychologists or counselors.
What are the Important Differences?:
There are many differences between Sports Psychologists and Sports Psychology Consultants. Educate yourself on the differences and what exactly you might be looking for. Some Sports Psychologists will use an alternate title such as Sports Psychology Consultant, Mental Performance Consultant, etc. In this case be sure to look at their schooling and governing body. Some may have Master’s degrees but are not registered with the College of Alberta Psychologists.
Keep in mind that Registered Psychologists are licensed through a governing body, are typically covered through insurance, and are able to treat clinical issues which often get in the way of performance. Sports Psychology Consultants do not have to license through a governing body or complete a Master’s or PhD, which is reflected in their typically lower cost.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Do your research and find someone you believe can help you gain a competitive edge. All areas of your life can affect your performance; invest in your mental health as a person and as an athlete.
- River Valley Health