Training sport psychologists in the 21st Century
I was reflecting at a recent sport psychology workshop whether we are adequately preparing the practitioner sport psychologists of the future for the world they are going to work in?
Increasingly, most practitioner sport psychologists need to be a marketing and branding expert, IT specialist, well versed in data handling, understand consumer law, and possibly a small business expert (if self-employed). This is all in addition to being an expert practitioner with well-developed communication and counselling skills, a strong theoretical and empirical grounding, have developed a clear model of practice, and have developed a toolkit of assessment, profiling and intervention strategies for a potentially very diverse client base. It is definitely harder than when I originally qualified!
In particular, the personal branding and marketing aspects of the profession are increasingly time consuming and complex. Many trainees (for good reason) feel compelled to have a strong online presence. This presence can include multiple social media accounts (e.g., Twitter, Instagram), having a website (which might require the services of a web designer), and a Facebook site, amongst other online platforms. There are also various practitioner/ expert lists you ca be part of (all of which require up-to-date profiles). When I first started as a consultant the main dilemma was what picture to put on the back of your business cards!
Much of this online presence is often managed through mobile devices, and often predominantly through smartphones. Add to this the likelihood that our trainee practitioners might well be communicating with clients via video conferencing (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Facetime) and through instant messaging (e.g., WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, SMS), there is a real issue of work potentially creeping into all aspects of your life. In the good (?!?!) old days over working was mainly spending too much time at the office or with clients, now however the job (and the clients) are carried with you wherever you go. There is often very little separation between work and non-work settings and time. While these advances in technology offer real flexibility, they also come at a cost, which is frequently a lack of downtime from work. This outcome in turn presents the serious potential for increasing susceptibility to a range of mental health conditions. The increasing risk of technology addiction is becoming a real social health challenge that is only going to increase over time. The nature of the consultant’s role now means that we are very much at risk of not being able to switch off (literally and metaphorically).
In considering possible CPD needs for the profession (not just for trainees) these sorts of topics needs to be considered. Developing training opportunities around topics such as: developing your brand and a personal marketing plan; working with social media; ethical and legal implications of online/virtual delivery; small business skills for sport psychologists; and enhancing your service provision through mobile technology and applications are crucial. Finally, it would be good if we could have compulsory CPD for practitioners on how to ensure your own mental health and how to stay mentally healthy!