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How do you find a sport psychologist?

I always think this is an interesting question. If I was a member of the public and I wanted to find a consultant where would I go? For medical conditions the process is relatively straightforward. You go and see you doctor (GP in the UK) and if you then need specialist support they refer you on to the relevant expert consultant.

The process is relatively similar for mental health issues. The doctor will refer you on to a service or to individual practitioners who have been vetted to provide expert support. So, in relation to general physical or psychological conditions the public have a clear starting point from which information about any specialist treatments is communicated.

But where do individuals seeking sport specific psychology specialists go? In many professional clubs and sports at the elite level there is often a resident sport psychologist or at least a named practitioner who is ‘approved’, but for the rest of sport what are the options? Often individuals seek recommendations from colleagues, peers and other professionals. This is in the main due to the lack of a clear alternative strategy. The only real alternative options available at the moment include the following:

• Use an internet search engine; • Use an online consultant finder; • Try the local University; • Contact the National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport; • Check the local business telephone directory.

None of which is particularly conclusive. Take the first option for example, an internet search. There are lots of slick consultant and company websites out there but no clearly understood ‘kitemark’ of quality or qualification, so how do you determine the good from the bad? You might opt to use an online consultant finder, but which one do you use? There is no comprehensive single database that lists all qualified practitioners. Indeed, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) who regulate the profession do not offer a service for the public to find a consultant, only to check if the one they are using (if they managed to find one) is registered. Contacting a University could be pretty hit and miss, there might be sport psychologists employed by the Institution but they might only be researchers and lecturers and not practitioner psychologists. Getting in touch with the NGB for your sport might be a starting point and some of these will have a decent network of contacts, but others will not. Finally, the local telephone directory probably doesn’t list too many practitioner sport psychologists.

So where do the public go when they want a sport psychologist, well unless someone they know has used one they and limited opportunity to make a informed decision and to purchase the required service with confidence. I am sure there are many club, semi professional and amateur sports people who would be keen to engage a sport psychologist and happy to pay for the service, but simply don’t know where to start in trying to find a consultant, let alone making an informed decision about whether they are one they can trust.

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