Personal Qualities of Effective Sport Psychologists: A Sports Physician Perspective

Open access


Previous literature within applied sport psychology offers little detailed discussion regarding the personal qualities of sport psychology practitioners and the impact of these qualities on practice. This paper presents an exploration of the views of sport physicians regarding the personal characteristics and qualities of applied sport psychologists deemed necessary for effective practice. Five UK-based physicians and one Head of Medical Services, working in a range of elite and professional sports, were interviewed about their experience and perceptions of working with sport psychologists. The interview transcripts were content analysed and trustworthiness criteria applied. Four key themes emerged from the data, labelled ‘Personal qualities’, ‘Relationship Building’, ‘Professionalism in Practice’, and ‘Similarities between Psychologist and Physician’. The findings within each theme offered interesting insights into the impact of personal qualities on effective sport psychology practice. This study extends the existing literature on sport psychologists’ characteristics and effectiveness and offers new insights into their personal qualities and how these interact with the practice environment. The findings supported the growing emphasis within the field on the importance of the person behind the practitioner. Suggestions are offered with reference to the need to consider how literature from counselling psychology and medical training could assist the development of practice and education and training in sport psychology.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Andersen M. (2009). Performance enhancement as a bad start and a dead end: A parenthetical comment on Mellalieu and Lane. The Sport and Exercise Scientist 20 12-14.

  • Anderson A. Miles A. Robinson P. & Mahoney C. (2004). Evaluating the athlete’s perception of the sport psychologist’s effectiveness: What should we be assessing? Psychology of Sport & Exercise 5 255-277.

  • Balague G. (1999). Understanding identity value and meaning when working with elite athletes. The Sport Psychologist 13 89-98.

  • Berg B.L. (2009). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. (7thed.). Boston: Pearson Education Bore M. Munro D. & Powis D. (2009). A comprehensive model for the selection of medical students. Medical Teacher 31 1066-1072.

  • Corey G. (2009). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. (8thed.). Belmont CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

  • Corlett J. (1996). Sophistry Socrates and sport psychology. The Sport Psychologist 10 84-94.

  • Cropley B. Miles A. Hanton S. & Niven A. (2007). Improving the delivery of applied sport psychology support through reflective practice. The Sport Psychologist 21 475-494.

  • Dorfman H.A. (1990). Reflections on providing personal and performance enhancement consulting services in professional baseball. The Sport Psychologist 4 341-346.

  • Fifer A. Henschen K. Gould D. & Ravizza K. (2008). What works when working with athletes. The Sport Psychologist 22 356-377.

  • Friesen A. & Orlick T. (2010). A qualitative analysis of holistic sport psychology consultants’ professional philosophies. The Sport Psychologist 24 227-244.

  • Gilbourne D. & Richardson D. (2006). Tales from the field: Personal reflections on the provision of psychological support in professional soccer. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 7 325-337.

  • Glick S.M. (2000). Selection for entry to medicine and specialist training. Medical Teacher 22 443-447.

  • Hack B. (2005). Qualifications: Education and Experience. In S. Murphy (Ed.) The Sport Psych Handbook (pp. 293-304). Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.

  • Harter S. (2002). Authenticity. In C.R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.) Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 382-394). New York NY: Oxford University Press.

  • Jones C. (2007). Developing good practitioners: Issues of clarification and character. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review 2 40-42.

  • Lindsay P. Breckon J.D. Thomas O. & Maynard I. W. (2007). In pursuit of congruence: A personal reflection on methods and philosophy in applied practice. The Sport Psychologist 21 335-352.

  • Lumsden M. A. Bore M. Millar K. Jack R. & Powis D. (2005). Assessment of personal qualities in relation to admission to medical school. Medical Education 39 258-265.

  • McGaghie W.C. (1990). Qualitative variables in medical school admission. Academic Medicine 65 145-149.

  • Nesti M. (2004). Existential Psychology and Sport: Implications for Research and Practice. London: Routledge.

  • Nesti M. (2010). Psychology in Football: Working with Elite and Professional Players. London: Routledge.

  • Orlick T. & Partington J. (1987).The sport psychology consultant: Analysis of critical components as viewed by Canadian Olympic athletes. The Sport Psychologist 1 4-17.

  • Patton M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. (3rded.). Sage: London.

  • Rogers C. R. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology 2 95-103.

  • Shenton A.K. (2004). Strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects. Education for Information 22 63-75.

  • Stambulova N. & Johnson U. (2010). Novice consultants' experiences: Lessons learned by applied sport psychology students. Psychology of Sport and Exercise 11 295-303.

  • Strupp H.H. (1978). The therapist's theoretical orientation: An overrated variable. Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice 15 314-317.

  • Taylor J. (2008). Prepare to succeed: Private consulting in applied sport psychology. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology 2 160-177.

  • Tod D. & Andersen M. (2005). Success in Sport Psych: Effective Sport Psychologists. In S. Murphy (Ed.) The Sport Psych Handbook (pp. 303-312). Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.

  • Truax C.B. & Carkhuff R.R. (1976). Toward Effective Counseling and Psychotherapy: Training and Practice. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.3

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.201
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.333

Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 536 337 7
PDF Downloads 336 264 8