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But they said they were a sport psychologist!

It continues to be a frustration of my’n that the profession (sport & exercise psychology) in the UK continues to lack any real clarity for the end user. In physiotherapy or medicine it is very straight-forward. Physiotherapist job adverts, for example, ask for membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and registration with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).  Doctor vacancies require certification by the the General Medical Council (GMC).


On the face of it, this really should not be a problem for sport & exercise psychology. Legally now it should relatively clear, if you are practising as a sport & exercise psychologist then you should be on the HCPC register. It would also be great if Chartership from the BPS (as the Society for Psychologists) was as recognised as membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is for physiotherapists. But that is not the case. While the BPS is well positioned regarding the world of academia its importance and recognition in the applied world of sport psychology is significantly less than it should be. It also doesn’t help that the presence of the British Association for Sport & Exercise Scientists (BASES) appears to confuse matters as well. There is still significant misunderstanding regarding what BASES accredited practitioners can do. The title ‘Sport & Exercise Scientist’ does not help as sport psychology is a core part of sport & exercise psychology degrees. There would be greater clarity accrediting biomechanics, physiologists and strength and conditioning practitioners instead.

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As the regulatory body the HCPC should be providing leadership on this issue. Instead there is still no real clarity regarding whether the register has ‘teeth’, and what will happen to practitioners who are not on the register. All of these issues lead to a real lack of clarity, and with each organisation looking to position itself in relation to the others there is little engagement with the real world of clients regarding what they should be looking for in a practitioner. Because of this potential clients are forced to rely on word of mouth and personal recommendation.


Ironically, the lack of clear leadership and clarity of message offered by BASES, HCPC, and the BPS is letting many pseudo-psychologists and charlatans loose on the public. The real worry is not the BASES accredited practitioners who were unlucky enough to be coming through the system at the wrong time, who while not psychologists have come through a well-structured programme of accreditation. The real worry is the non-qualified, non-registered individuals who are out there dragging a profession I love through the mud. They are ill-equipped to do the job that a properly qualified and trained practitioner can do, but are still offering ‘sport psychology services’ and as a result are diminishing the reputation of real practitioners in the field.

As a result I think it is about time the profession as a whole pulled together, and for once in the same direction to offer real clarity, and a real service to the clients out there who want access to high quality sport & exercise psychology support services.

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