Dr Johnson and Dr Bell are from the School of Physical Education, Sport, & Exercise Science, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana; and Dr Jutte is from the Department of Sport Studies, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The authors have no financial or proprietary interest in the materials presented herein.
Address correspondence to Lisa S. Jutte, PhD, ATC, Department of Sport Studies, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH 45207-6312; e-mail: email@example.com.
Part I of this Pearls of Practice series highlighted the need for Sport Psychology Consultants (SPC). Part II of this series identifies the most common barriers preventing SPCs from joining the sports medicine team. Part III will identify 3 techniques commonly used by SPCs.
Although athletic trainers and physicians routinely address the psychosocial needs of injured athletes, there is often a need for complementary psychological care provided by SPCs. However, in many instances, SPCs are not included in the pre- or postinjury experience, when their training would be most effective. The three common reasons why SPCs are often not included on the sports medicine team1 are discussed below.
Who Wants to See a “Shrink?”
First, some negative connotations and stigmas associated with psychologists may cause athletes and coaches to view SPCs with a degree of apprehension.1,2 Although it is considered normal for an injured athlete to receive physical treatment, an athlete experiencing excessive worry, apprehension, return-to-play concerns, and severe anxiety may resist psychosocial interventions. Coaches and athletes may view the use of an SPC as an admission of weakness or they may believe SPCs have little to offer.2
In addition, a general lack of knowledge by coaches, administrators, and athletes regarding the services offered by SPCs may contribute to these negative misconceptions. These negative misconceptions are exacerbated due to the traditional and stereotypical labeling of psychologists as “shrinks” or the feeling that psychosocial intervention would encourage others to label an individual as “crazy.”2 Despite strict regulations for mental health professionals and a thorough certification process for SPCs, these types of misinformation can create difficult obstacles to overcome.
Do You Know the Rules of the Game?
Second, a lack of sport-specific knowledge on the part of the SPC can be a frustrating barrier for all members of the sports medicine team. Although there are commonalties in the injury rehabilitation process for most sports, each sport presents a different level of physical and mental demands, resulting in different injury patterns.
Unlike athletic trainers, who are often experts due to being entrenched in the day-to-day operations of the sports medicine services, SPCs work in an assortment of environments, such as working in an office or traveling to meet a variety of clients in an assortment of sport settings. As a result, SPCs may not speak the language of a specific sport or know what it means to participate in that sport. If an SPC cannot display a general knowledge of a particular sport and how injuries typically occur in that sport, the SPC’s services may be quickly dismissed or underused.1,2
To reduce this barrier, SPCs often immerse themselves in the culture of a particular sport by speaking to the athletes and coaches, participating in the sport on a limited basis, reading about the rules or statistics, or frequently observing practice and competitions. Acknowledging the nuances of each sport will allow the SPC to earn credibility and rapport with coaches, athletes, and support staff.1
I’ve Never Had a Sport Psychologist Before!
The third, and often most critical, barrier may be the cultural and political constraints in the existing sport or rehabilitation environment.1 In organizations where the coaches, players, and sports medicine team routinely operate without an SPC, the introduction of a new member may be wrought with obstacles. For example, the services of an SPC may be overlooked due to years of operating without one. It is also possible that SPCs are not easily accessible due to factors such as geography (rural versus urban) or financial constraints. Because 75% of athletic trainers do not have direct access to SPCs, it appears that these situations may occur frequently.3
Other cultural constraints might include the expertise of the SPC or their gender or race. Evidence suggests that individuals receiving psychosocial interventions are more trusting of professionals representing their own gender and race.4,5 Given these cultural constraints, integrating an SPC onto the sports medicine team requires availability, resources, patience, and trust.
Overcoming the three barriers for SPC inclusion on the sports medicine team can be difficult due to the fragile mental state often accompanying injured athletes,1,2 as well as the potential pressure for the athlete to return to competition before physically and mentally ready. It is understandable how the SPC can be left out of the sports medicine team when these obstacles are combined with a potential lack of knowledge about the field of sport psychology, negative stigmas, and existing cultural constraints.
The third part of this 3-part series will address the strategies commonly used by SPCs in the injury rehabilitation process.
- Ravizza K. Gaining entry with athletic personnel for season-long consulting. Sport Psychologist. 1988;2(3):243–254.
- Linder DE, Brewer BW, Van Raalte JL, DeLange N. A negative halo for athletes who consult sport psychologists: replication and extension. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 1991;13(2):133–148.
- Cramer Roh JL, Perna FM. Psychology/counseling: a universal competency in athletic training. J Athl Train. 2000;35(4):458–465.
- Watkins CE, Terrell F. Mistrust level and its effects on counseling expectations in Black client-White counselor relationships: an analogue study. J Couns Psychol. 1988;35(2):194–197. doi:10.1037/0022-0220.127.116.11 [CrossRef]
- Yambor J, Connelly D. Issues confronting female sport psychology consultants working with male student-athletes. Sport Psychologist. 1991;5(4):304–312.