Are Sport Psychologists Really Psychologists?

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1 JOURNAL OFSPORT PSYCHOLOGY, 1982,4,13-18 Are Sport Psychologists Really Psychologists? J. Marshall Brown Lafayette College Of course sport psychologists are psychologists. Or are they? At times, professionals working in sport psychology seem to be functioning as psychologists. At other times, they apparently function as teachers, coaches, or researchers. And it makes a great deal of difference what these professionals do or what they call themselves, because psychologists now have legal credentials in all 50 states of the United States and most of the provinces of Canada. If they are offering services as psychologists for remuneration, then they should have legal credentials as psychologists. If not, then they do not need to be legally licensed or certified. Several recent articles (Botterill, 1980; Danish & Hale, 1981; Harrison & Feltz, 1979) have considered the problems of limiting the field of sport psychology and have pointed to some of the problems in providing sport psychologists with legal credentials. This paper reacts to some of the comments by Danish and Hale (1981) and suggests a possible direction for the development of the field of sport psychology. At this time, many of the laws providing legal credentials specify the functions a psychologist may perform as well as certify the use of the title. It appears that some of the functions provided by sport psychologists are well within the realm of psychology as described by most laws. Therefore, some present practitioners of sport psychology must have legal credentials as psychologists or face possible prosecution for illegal practice. Danish and Hale (1981) indicate some of the problems of defining the practice of sport psychology. They state that there are two distinct groups working in sport psychology: individuals whose major focus is to identify neuropsychological, biophysical, psychosocial, and intrapersonal factors which affect athletic performance (primarily applied researchers), and individuals who intervene clinically with athletes to assist these athletes to better their performance (primarily clinical practitioners). (p.91) Danish and Hale suggest that these two groups are not interacting well with each other or with coaches, trainers, and teachers. Those sport psychologists serving primarily as clinical practitioners, as described by Danish and Hale, should have legal credentials as psychologists or be prosecuted for illegal practice. Those people working in the field as applied researchers do not need licenses or certification. Requests for reprints should be sent to J. Marshall Brown, Department of Psychology, Lafayette College, Easton, PA

2 14 BROWN Different writers use terminology in their own distinct manner and there is lack of agreement as to the definition of licensure and certification. For the purpose of this paper legal credentials will be classified into two types: (a) certification indicates that people have been certified by a legally constituted board as competent to provide certain services if they use a certain title such as psychologist; (b) licensing describes the scope of services which may be performed for remuneration only by legally licensed persons and certifies that such licensed persons are competent to provide such services. A certification law may make it illegal for people to use any title or description of services incorporating the words psychological, psychologist, or psychology, such as sport psychologist, unless they have first obtained legal certification. A licensing law may make it illegal for unlicensed persons to provide services such as the assessment, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, or amelioration of psychological problems or emotional, mental, or nervous disorders or dysfunctions of individuals, families, or groups. It may prevent the determination of mental or emotional disabilities or the assessment or improvement of psychological adjustment or functioning of individuals, families, or groups whether or not there is a diagnosable pre-existing psychological problem by individuals without a legal license. It may prevent such individuals from diagnosing or treating behavior patterns or emotional or psychological problems that may have a direct or indirect causative relationship to either actual or potential physical illness; from diagnosing, treating, or ameliorating the psychological aspects of injury, dismemberment, disease, illness, or dying; or from using psychological procedures such as the principles pertaining to learning, conditioning, perception, motivation, thinking, emotions, mind-body relationships, interpersonal relationships, or intergroup relationships. Unlicensed individuals may not be able to use the methods or procedures of verbal interaction, interviewing, consulting, counseling or the subspecialties of counseling that include but are not limited to sexual or marriage and family or alcohol or drug abuse counseling, behavior modification, environmental manipulation, relaxation training, assertiveness training, consciousness raising, role playing, group process, psychotherapy, hypnosis, behavior therapy, biofeedback training or therapy, personnel selection or counseling or management, organizational development, vocational rehabilitation, or group dynamics. Finally, unlicensed individuals may be prevented from using the methods or procedures of constructing, administering, or interpreting tests of mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, opinions, attitudes, personality characteristics, emotions, motivation, or psychophysiologic characteristics. Of course, it is also possible to interpret the scope of service statement in licensing laws as an enumeration of the practices that licensed people have a right to provide while not implying that others not licensed for that profession may not also practice these activities. In brief, certification conveys the right to use a title while licensure conveys the right to use the title, defines the scope of practice, and prohibits all nonlicensed persons from the scope of practice. This interpretation is often followed by boards that provide legal credentials for psychology when they assure the consuming public that a certified or licensed person has a minimum educational and experiential background as well as competence as measured by tests, interviews, and so on. Thus, it is illegal for individuals to practice any of those functions described in a licensing law without a proper license, regardless of the title they use, unless they are specifically exempted by the law. Most state psychology licensing laws provide exemptions that allow members of the following groups to practice psychology without

3 ARE SPORT PSYCHOLOGISTS REALLY PSYCHOLOGISTS? 15 a license: persons licensed to practice any of the healing arts; persons construed to be qualified members of other professions where their training and code of ethics provide for services of a psychological nature; persons employed as faculty or staff of duly accredited universities, colleges, hospitals, or schools who perform their services as part of their normal function; and persons engaged in scientific research of a psychological nature. There are also specific exceptions in some states for special groups such as social psychologists. All of the laws covering the provision of legal credentials for psychologists in the United States provide for generic credentials. For example, the title psychologist may be used by anyone doing industrial/organizational psychology, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or other psychology when this person has legal credentials. Generic credentials are the keystone to professional licensure or certification. The large body of knowledge which provides the backbone for a profession is broad, complex, and theoretical-not narrow or specific as might be expected for an occupational group or a specialty within a profession. Psychology is a profession because there is a body of knowledge developed, controlled, expanded, and transmitted to new persons by psychologists. Part of this body of knowledge may be used by many other professionals or occupational groups, but only psychologists have this information in its entirety. The purpose of providing legal credentials is to protect the consuming public. There are many difficulties in providing all legal credentials, and defining the exact functions that a licensed or certified person is to perform is probably the most formidable. Providing psychologists with legal credentials is a particularly arduous activity because the activities of psychologists are so diverse and some of the activities are often done by members of other professions. Uniformity of legal credentials in psychology has not been achieved in the United States and Canada. There is a high public acceptance of legal credentials, however, and strong efforts are underway toward creating uniform standards for providing credentials. Within the past 2 years, over 12 state boards providing credentials have been reviewed under "sunset" legislation and have been "passed" or new legislation for credentials in psychology has been enacted. Currently seven states-alabama, Alaska, Maryland, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont-are preparing for review in Two other states, Nevada and Wyoming, have sunset legislation with no specific review date listed, and recently legislation has been passed in Pennsylvania calling for sunset review by January 1, Current indications are that all states scheduled for sunset review will pass the review or will enact new licensing or certification laws. The indications are clear that licensing and certification for psychologists will continue in all 50 states. Standardized methods for providing legal credentials to psychologists are evolving throughout the United States and Canada. Most legal boards have taken the position that they are to provide credentials only to psychologists and therefore take great care not to give them to persons without this training. Uniform standards for training a psychologist have been established by the American Association of State Psychology Boards (AASPB, Note 1) and have been adopted by the majority of state boards. The AASPB guidelines are: 1. Programs that are accredited by the American Psychological Association are recognized as meeting the definition of a professional psychology program. The criteria for accreditation serve as a model for professional psychology training. 2. Training in professional psychology is doctoral training offered in a regionally

4 16 BROWN accredited institution or higher education. 3. The program, wherever it may be administratively housed, must be clearly identified and labeled as a psychology program. Such a program must specify in pertinent institutional catalogues and brochures its intent to educate and train professional psychologists. 4. The psychology program must stand as a recognizable, coherent, organizational entity within the institution. 5. There must be a clear authority and primary responsibility for the core and specialty areas whether or not the program cuts across administrative lines. 6. The program must be an organized sequence of study planned by those responsible for the training program to provide an integrated educational experience appropriate to the professional practice of psychology. 7. There must be an identifiable psychology faculty and a psychologist responsible for the program. 8. The program must have an identifiable body of students who have matriculated in that program for a degree. Because the quality of any educational program is partially dependent on the quality of students, careful attention must be given that students meet appropriate standards of educational preparation and ability for admission. 9. The program must include practicum, internship, field, or laboratory training appropriate to the practice of psychology. 10. The curriculum shall encompass a minimum of 3 academic years of full-time graduate study. The doctoral program shall involve at least one continuous academic year of full-time residency at the university at which the degree is granted. In addition to instruction in scientific and professional ethics and standards, history and systems, research design and methodology, statistics and psychometrics, the core program shall require each student to demonstrate competence in each of the following substantive content areas. This typically will be met by including a minimum of 6 or more graduate semester hours (9 or more graduate quarter hours) in each of these four substantive content areas: a. Biological Bases of Behavior: e.g., physiological psychology, comparative psychology, neuropsychology, sensation and perception, and psychopharmacology. b. Cognitive-affective Bases of Behavior: e.g,, learning, thinking, motivation, and emotion. c. Social Bases of Behavior: e.g., social psychology, group processes, as well as organizational and systems theory. d. Individual Differences: e.g., personality theory, human development, and abnormal psychology. These AASPB guidelines are approximately the same as the standards used by the American Psychological Association when evaluating graduate programs in psychology. Movement is also underway toward a national accrediting system which would probably set standards somewhat like these. These standards describe the education necessary for a person who is to be thought of as a psychologist. Because boards providing legal credentials are licensing or certifying only psychologists, it is reasonable that anybody obtaining credentials should have completed training as a psychologist. Some people currently in the field of sport psychology do not meet the minimum educational requirements to obtain legal credentials as psychologists. Any persons

5 ARE SPORT PSYCHOLOGISTS REALLY PSYCHOLOGISTS? 17 not specifically exempted by law or rules should stop practicing as psychologists. If these individuals continue to practice illegally, they should expect to be prosecuted. Other sport psychologists may meet the educational and experiential requirements, but do not wish to obtain legal credentials. These persons, if not specifically exempted by law or rules, should stop practicing as psychologists. The protection of the public is the primary concern of boards providing legal credentials. They must enforce licensing and certification laws which may stop the practice of some people currently working as sport psychologists. On the other hand, many professionals working in sports, such as coaches and trainers, routinely provide some of the services also provided by legally licensed professionals such as physicians and psychologists. It is generally accepted that such services may be provided by coaches, trainers, teachers, or others as long as they do not claim to be medical doctors or psychologists while so doing, and that they do not provide any of the specific services that medical doctors or psychologists are exclusively allowed to provide. Obviously, there are great difficulties in describing the exact functions that psychologists might legally be allowed to perform versus those performed by persons not licensed as psychologists, but there are similar difficulties in describing the functions of physicians. If individuals are going to work as sport psychologists, they should be legally trained and must obtain credentials as psychologists. If they are not going to provide services as psychologists, then some other term must be used in describing their profession. Sport researcher, sport scientist, trainer, coach, or teacher are terms that might be used by individuals applying some psychology, but not providing intervention techniques as psychologists. The practice of sport psychology as described in the human development framework by Danish and Hale (1981) seems to involve a teaching function rather than those functions described in most psychology licensing laws. Therefore, if trainers, educators, coaches, or sport scientists provide the services described by Danish and Hale without using the title psychologist, they could do so without a legal license or certificate. This seems to be a viable direction for the field of sport psychology. Persons interested in the individual, clinical service delivery model should be trained as psychologists, and should obtain legal credentials as psychologists. Persons interested in research, teaching, or applying the human development framework that emphasizes continuous growth and change without special attention to pathological problems would not need to be trained or to obtain credentials as psychologists. Reference Note 1. American Association of State Psychology Boards. National education standards for licensure as apsychologisf. Minutes of the August 1977 Annual Meeting. References Botterill, C. Psychology of coaching. In R.M. Suinn, Psychology in sports: Methods and applications. Minneapolis: Burgess, 1980.

6 18 BROWN Danish, S.J., & Hale, B.D. Toward an understanding of the practice of sport psychology. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1981, 3, Harrison, R.P., & Feltz, D.L. The professionalization of sport psychology: Legal considerations. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1979, 1, Manuscript submitted: December 7, 1981 Revision received: January 10, 1982

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