FAQ | Center for Sport Psychology and Athlete Mental Health


Here we help answer questions you might have about sport psychology, the process of working with a sport psychology, how to become a sport psychologist, among other things. If you do not find the answer to your question in this section, please feel free to email us at sportpsych@unt.edu.

a) What is Sport Psychology?

The American Psychological Association (Division 47) defines sport and exercise psychology as the scientific study of the psychological factors associated with participation and performance in sport, exercise, and other types of physical activity. Sport psychologists focus primarily on:
- Helping athletes use psychological principles and skills to achieve optimal mental health and to improve performance.
- Understanding how individuals' participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity affects their psychological development, health, and well-being.

b) Who can benefit from working with a Sport Psychologist? Is it just for elite athletes?

Although all U.S. Olympic athletes have access to a Sport Psychologist, and many professional and college athletes use them as well, sport psychology services can help most people who, regardless of age, race/ethnicity, gender or competitive level, are interested in improving their performance or deriving more enjoyment from sport and physical activity. Some of the common reasons individuals and teams may seek out sport psychology services include: increasing motivation, setting effective goals, improving relationships with coach/teammates, learning imagery, improving focus and attention, developing preperformance routines, increasing positive thinking and confidence, effectively regulating emotions, improving communication, becoming an effective leader, preventing or recovering from injury, treating an eating disorders or substance use/abuse. Clearly, there is a wide range of reasons why athletes may work with a sport psychologist.

c) How can I learn more about Sport Psychology?

There are many excellent books, journals, websites, and professional organizations through which you can learn more about the field of sport and exercise psychology. Some of them are listed here:

Anderson, M.B. (2000). Doing sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Anderson, M.B. (2005). Sport Psychology In Practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Griffith, C. (1928). Psychology and athletics. New York: C. Scribner's Sons.
Griffith, C. (1928). Psychology of coaching. New York: C. Scribner's Sons.
Le Unes, A. (2009). Sport psychology. Psychology Press.
Tennenbaum, G., & Eklund, R. (2007). Handbook of Sport Psychology (3rd Edition). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons
Van Raalte, J.L. & Brewer, B.W. (Eds.) (2002). Exploring sport and exercise psychology (2nd edition). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Weingberg, R. & Gould, D. (2007). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (4th Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Williams, J.M. (Ed.) (2009). Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (6th Ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co.

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology
The Sport Psychologist
Journal of Exercise and Sport Psychology
International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Journal of Sport Behavior
Psychology of Sport and Exercise
Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise

Professional Sport Psychology Organization Websites
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD)
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
American Psychological Association (APA) - Division 47 - Sport and Exercise Psychology
Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP)
Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (TAHPERD)
North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA)

d) How can I become a Sport Psychologist?

One of the questions students interested in sport psychology most often ask is “How can I become a sport psychologist?” Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field -- drawing from psychology and the sport/exercise sciences - there are many different educational pathways students can take to get there. Thus, a central issue for students interested in sport and exercise psychology concerns determining exactly what they want to do in the field. Do they want to teach and conduct research at a college or university? Do they want to coach? Do they want to work with athletes on mental skills training or performance enhancement issues? Do they want to provide athletes with counseling or therapy? How you answer these and other questions will guide your choice of career and graduate training.

To assist students with this process, members of the American Psychological Association – Division 47 (Exercise & Sport Psychology) and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) developed a brochure on “Graduate Training & Career Possibilities in Exercise & Sport Psychology.” The primary purpose of the brochure is to inform students interested in pursuing training in sport/exercise psychology about the different career tracks that exist within the field and the educational pathways they would pursue to receive the necessary training.

If you are a student interested in sport and exercise psychology, we strongly encourage you to read this information before making any decisions concerning a career or graduate training. If you have additional questions about the field or would like to talk to one of our Performance Excellence Staff regarding training opportunities at the University of North Texas, please contact us at sportpsych@unt.edu or 940-369-SPORT (7767).

e) Who is a "qualified" Sport Psychologist?

Currently, there are three sources of information on credentialing and professional status within sport psychology. The first is the Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC), AASP (https://appliedsportpsych.org/) that is offered through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. The second is membership in the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry (https://www.teamusa.org/Team-USA-Athlete-Services/Medical/Mental-Health). The third is the sport psychology proficiency statement that has been published by Division 47 (Sport & Exercise Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (https://www.apadivisions.org/division-47/about/sport-proficiency/index). Each organization, and their respective credential or process, provides information regarding the status of professionals working in sport psychology, including the desired level of training and/or experience.

To find a qualified sport psychology consultant, you can visit the AASP website (AASP Consultant Finder), which has a directory of specialists in the field with their respective service areas. You also may want to consider working with a sport psychologist who is a licensed psychologist because that professional would have a broader understanding of interpersonal issues affecting your performance and may be in the best position to help you reach your goals. When you contact the sport psychologist, ask them specific questions concerning their training, background, and interests as well as if they believe they will be able to help in addressing your concerns.

Sport psychology fees can vary across the U.S. Like other service professionals, fees may range from $100.00 or more per session. Fees for long-term consultations with athletic or sport organizations generally are determined based on services provided and length of contract.

f) What is the process of working with a sport psychologist?

Each athlete/team/performer is unique, thus the process of working with a sport psychologist typically begins with an assessment session where the sport psychologist will determine your performance goals. Based on the information obtained from that session, the sport psychologist will recommend various options to help you decide what approach might work best to meet your achievement goals.