I am one year into the two-year long process of becoming a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist via the British Psychological Society training route (Stage 2) - and what a year it has been! I have had quite a few messages from individuals who are thinking about starting Stage 2 asking for advice, so I thought writing a blog post about my reflections over the first year of training would be a good shout. I could talk about this for hours, but I have tried to limit this to just a few points.
1. Threats to the sport and exercise psychology profession.
Over the past year, I have contemplated giving up on the Stage 2 training process, especially when I could not see the point in continuing. By that, I mean not knowing where the Stage 2 process would lead... Would it even help me in achieving a job? This stemmed from seeing individuals on social media advertising themselves as 'mindset coaches', for example, who would actively claim to be experts in enhancing the psychological performance of athletes, yet they failed to possess any formal academic or professional qualifications that would demonstrate their competence in enhancing psychological performance in athletes (or sport or exercise contexts). What I learnt is that these individuals are excellent at marketing themselves in a way that you may not even think to question their competence in doing the job they claim to be able to do so well.
I believe these individuals are giving the sport and exercise psychology profession a bad name. What we know is that it takes approximately between 5 and 7 years (minimum) to train to become a HCPC registered Sport and Exercise Psychologist (via the British Psychological Society training route and the newly-formed British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences' training route). Individuals who have completed a crash course in mental training, for example, simply cannot gain a comprehensive understanding and experience of delivering psychological interventions and techniques, alongside utilising psychological therapies, without years of adequate, supervised training. Having previous experience as a professional athlete does not provide such competence in the above areas either.
OK, I can sit here and moan for hours about such threats to the sport and exercise psychology profession and end up feeling hopeless, which would not help anyone... so by educating individuals and organisations about the importance of seeking psychological services from an individual who not only holds the academic and professional qualifications but also abides by a professional code of conduct, including ethical practice, is a start! For more information on this, please visit:
2. Find yourself a good supervisor.
Supervision is such an important aspect of the BPS Stage 2 process. During supervision meetings, prepare to be pulled apart on everything that you do (in a good way!). Engaging in critical reflection is necessary in order to actually learn. I have an excellent supervisor; Professor Chris Harwood who is based at Loughborough University. Without the guidance from Chris, I believe I would simply be plodding along doing the same things and making the same mistakes whilst convincing myself I am doing a great job. Your choice in supervisor would obviously depend upon your financial circumstances, along with the availability of the supervisor to take on additional trainees, but to find a list of current BPS Stage 2 supervisors, see: https://www.bps.org.uk/lists/rapps
3. Network and learn from others.
This might sound scary to some of you, but trust me - if I can do it, you can too. Believe it or not, throughout my childhood I would rarely speak to others, especially adults. This was not because I didn't like them; I just didn't want to say something stupid and get told off for it. This aspect of myself has clearly disappeared because these days I say a lot of stupid things! Haha. Some things that currently benefit my learning:
Talk with other trainee sport and exercise psychologists.
Look to psychologists working in different areas (e.g., clinical psychology).
Learn from different sports, not only those you are comfortable working in.
Attend conferences and workshops. I love the BASES Conferences as this provides opportunities to connect with applied practitioners working in different fields (e.g., sport scientists, strength and conditioning coaches, and nutritionists).
Observe others. This could be other practitioners or coaches.
This networking will play a vital role in your development of a professional referral network during your applied practice.
4. Prepare to delve deep into your own psychology.
As I enrolled onto the BPS Stage 2 training route, I thought I had nothing more to learn about my own psychology due to spending the majority of the last 10 years undergoing numerous cycles of psychological therapies as an outpatient, inpatient, and day-patient. However, exploring the psychology of the self has played a major part of my training so far. It feels as if I have been on a constant emotional rollercoaster for the past 12-months, but it has been a journey that has helped me to learn so much more about myself and one that positively influences my applied work with clients. By better understanding my own thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, the more meaningful my learning became when engaging in reflection. There never comes a point where you can no longer learn anything more about yourself, so this will remain an ongoing process for myself in my work. A useful example has been by undertaking a Spotlight personality profile a few months ago, which really highlighted to me areas within my behaviours and mindset that I could benefit from by exploring more and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
5. Clarify your consulting philosophy.
This was the most important and most valuable reflection of my training so far. This remains an ongoing reflection for me because it is important to be mindful of what exactly underpins your consulting approach and delivery. By that I mean what are your core values as a psychologist and how do these values play out within your consultancy? This process also includes outlining your approach to bringing about behaviour change (for example, adopting a cognitive behavioural approach), and the content and focus of interventions you adopt with clients. There are lots of useful research papers on clarifying your consulting philosophy, so make sure to give these a read. For example, Poczwardowski et al. (2014).
I hope these few points have been helpful, but if you have any questions regarding the BPS Stage 2 training process, please feel free to either comment on this blog post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org