the years, when working with athletes and sports teams, I've
found that what takes place in the personal lives of athletes
off the field dramatically affects what takes place on the field.
Athletes' personal unresolved issues and problems directly affect
their ability to focus and often show up in the form of mental
errors and mistakes during game competition.
So when I first wrote this, I wanted to find out the answer
to this question:
- Unless a sport psychologist is also licensed as a counseling
psychologist or therapist, is he or she prohibited from helping
athletes with their personal issues and problems?
The answer I found was: Yes!
According to a psychologist I interviewed at a Midwestern
University, the ethical practice of psychology involves not practicing
outside one's domain of expertise, and that psychological treatment
for personal problems generally falls into the realm of clinical
and counseling psychology. Sports psychologists not trained in
clinical and counseling psychology would typically limit their
practice to psychoeducational interventions related to enhancing
sports performance and refer outside sources for mental health
When I interviewed Jon Stabler, co-owner and co-founder of
GolfPsych, and husband to Dr. Deborah Graham, one of the country's
most successful sport psychologist who is also a licensed psychotherapist,
- Unless sport psychologists are also licensed therapists,
it is illegal for them to give advice or direction on personal
issues or other issues outside of the sport. Unfortunately, we
are aware of several instances where well-known sport psychologists
have crossed that line and the advice has not been what a licensed
therapist would offer. If the advice they gave resulted in adverse
or damaging outcomes, they could be very liable for those results.
In harmony with this point of view, I've found that when athletes
are encumbered with psychological baggage (issues and problems)
visualization and other mental techniques normally taught by
sport psychologists, will be ineffective. Some sport psychologists
believe you can just block these issues out, but I disagree.
Issues and problems cannot be "just blocked out." They
must be identified, addressed and dealt with before visualization
will work. But for those athletes whose lives are in harmony,
who have resolved (or begun the process of resolving) important
issues and problems in their lives, the use of visualization
can be highly effective.
One has to wonder why our colleges and universities continue
to offer degrees in the field of sports psychology and not require
an accompanying degree in counseling.
From a positive perspective, I've found that when athletes
have a high sense of self-worth, when they are not repressing
their feelings and emotions, when they are highly spiritual,
when they are helping others less fortunate than themselves and
when their lives are in harmony, they will actually create positive
events in their lives, on and off the field of competition.
Performance Enhancement Consultant