"You can't call yourself a sport psychologist just because you're a licensed psychologist who reads Sports Illustrated," says Jennifer E. Carter, PhD, past-president of APA's Div. 47 (Exercise and Sport) and a counseling and sport psychologist at the Center for Balanced Living in Worthington, Ohio.
Sport psychology requires specialized knowledge, skills and procedures — which is why APA's Council of Representatives approved it as a proficiency in 2003 and renewed that approval in 2011.
The recognition serves two main purposes, says Carter, who was part of the Div. 47 team that compiled the updated proficiency document last year. One is to protect the public by letting consumers know that there are certain standards that indicate competence in the field. The other is to guide psychologists who want to develop that competence. "We want to provide a path to becoming competent as a sport psychologist," says Carter.
While APA recognizes sport psychology as distinctive from other areas of psychology, it doesn't certify individual psychologists as proficient.
As the still relatively young area of sport psychology continues evolving, says Carter, Div. 47 may explore developing practice guidelines or a certification exam, perhaps in collaboration with such organizations as the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Eventually, the division may seek APA's approval of sport psychology as an official specialty rather than just a proficiency.
But so far, sport psychology is not ready for that step, says Carter. "While there are increasing numbers of graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology that have begun to recognize the discipline of sport psychology, the number of these programs is still limited," she says, explaining that there are currently only 10 graduate programs offering clinical or counseling psychology and sport psychology.
For more information about APA's proficiency in sport psychology, visit Public Description of Sport Psychology.
—Rebecca A. Clay