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Sharing practice in applied sport psychology

Applied sport psychology consultants are both committed and required to engage in continued professional development (CPD). Indeed there are now a range of organisations and bodies that seek to be the ‘home’ of CPD for applied sport psychology consultants across the world.

However, while these bodies exist there appears to be a misalignment regarding the services that they provide for their members. Indeed there appears to be a significant focus on qualification, certification, regulation and quality assurance rather than the professionalization through shared practice of the practitioners the organisations seek to support.

Now I am not saying that these things are not important. Indeed I think that it is fundamentally important to have an effective qualification system and quality assurance process, but this should not be at the expense of supporting the qualified practitioners who are out there in applied practice. In some instances it is possible to argue that once you have become qualified, the usefulness of your membership from a CPD perspective could be challenged.

Part of the problem is that much of sport psychology provision has developed out of academic institutions. The associated organisations have developed along a similar vein that has resulted in conferences and events that are very formulaic and built around the presentation of research findings.

The most useful CPD activities for applied sport psychology consultants are the opportunities to discuss their practice and issues that have arisen with their peers. This sharing of practice should be at the centre of relevant CPD activities with the sharing of experiential knowledge rather than mainly research knowledge. Again, I am not saying that the research is not important, I would argue the opposite, feeling that evidence-based practice is in the main crucial, but arguably the most useful information for practitioners is the reflections and views of other fellow practitioners. The research very rarely involves the right participants or good representative research designs to be easily applicable in many ‘real’ applied practice scenarios, and yet many developmental events are dominated by oral research presentations, research posters, or a presentation of a relatively narrow piece of research based on the presenters expertise.

The dissemination of research findings is important but this needs to be balanced with other CPD opportunities designed by applied consultants for applied consultants. Fundamentally the opportunity to sit and listen to the experiences of other practitioners and to discuss issues is crucial. Looking at the current CPD opportunities in both psychology and sport psychology organisations this appears to be limited.

There has been a significant increase in the number of applied consultants working in sport and performance psychology in recent years who feel that the existing member organisations do not really cater for their professional needs once they have become qualified practitioners. With this in mind it is time to start developing more practitioner-focused CPD opportunities, through a range of mediums including member forums, interest groups, applied practice news letters, and relevant CPD events.

This might be achieved through the evolution of existing organisations and networks, or could require a new applied practice network for the sharing and discussion of experience, innovations and challenges.

Ironically, this is also the information that trainee sport psychologists want most as part of their programme of qualification. The opportunity to listen to the experiences of these who practice in the field is often cited as being of most value.

So it looks like we have reached a point where we need to push on as a profession and to start sharing knowledge and experience more freely, the challenge though is to develop the mechanisms through which this can be achieved.

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