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Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Overview

Abstract
In this book, we adopt a very simple definition of sport psychology: the application of the scientific process to the mental aspects of athletes and sport performers. Notably, this can entail performance enhancement, supporting participation, educating groups about sport psychology, supporting psychological well-being and managing transitions (e.g., to the elite level, or into retirement). The particular wording of this definition can entail both research and applied practice because, in reality, it can be quite misleading to try and distinguish between the two. Even the purest of researchers must produce findings with applied relevance, and present their findings in a way that will inform applied practice. Likewise, even the purest of applied practitioners must remain aware of developments in research, and be able to critically evaluate the relevance of research findings before adopting them into applied practice. As such, this definition is a departure from those listed at the beginning of Kontos and Feltz (2008), but is perhaps closest to that of Weinberg and Gould (1995, p. 8): ‘The scientific study of people and their behaviour in sport and exercise settings.’
Richard Keegan

2. Ethical Considerations: Protecting the Client, Yourself and Your Profession

Abstract
This chapter highlights the importance of ethical considerations as the very foundation of a sport psychologist’s practice, emphasizing that ethical issues permeate every aspect of the sport psychologist’s role. Put simply, ethical considerations pertain to morals — and can be construed both as an outcome of practice and a process one undertakes (Hays, 2006; also called ‘virtue’ ethics by Aoyagi & Portenga, 2010). Definitions of ethics as an outcome include both codes of behaviour considered correct; or the moral fitness of a decision, or course of action. In contrast, ethics as a process can be defined as the philosophical study of the moral value of human conduct and of the rules and principles that ought to govern it. In the words of Pope and Vasquez (1998, p. xiii), ethics can also be ‘a process through which we awaken, enhance, inform, expand and improve our ability to respond effectively to those who come to us for help’. Notably, if one has a strong ethical process, then the resultant ethical outcomes should be much more defensible.
Richard Keegan

3. Philosophical Assumptions: The Aims, the Substance and the Strategy

Abstract
In the following chapter, we review a topic which receives insufficient attention in sport psychology yet which may hold the key to effective practice: the philosophical foundations of sport psychology practice. These can be divided into three broad categories including the purpose of sport psychology (aims could include resolving performance issues, promoting well-being, increasing participation, managing injuries and more), the subject matter of sport psychology (What is it, how can we measure/analyse it?) and the practice style one adopts when working with clients. Importantly, not only can we actually identify key themes in each category, we can also illustrate the consequences of adopting different assumptions, or sets of assumptions. Further still, we can uncover logical associations between different types of assumptions (aims, reality, style), and explore the impact of adopting consistent versus conflicting assumption sets. The problem for all sport psychologists is that all of the above assumptions are necessary, unavoidable parts of the service delivery process, but for many they will be implicit and undeclared.
Richard Keegan

4. The Intake Process: Establishing a Relationship, Aims, Expectations and Boundaries

Abstract
Continuing the theme of identifying and then critically examining key tasks that every sport psychologist undeniably performs, we have the intake process. Technically, without performing some type of ‘intake’, the sport psychologist could not have any clients and would be reduced to simply writing for an unknown audience (i.e., blogs, books, etc.) or perhaps just theorizing in private. Intake really is an unavoidable, and therefore very important, component of the sport psychology process. In order to establish a helping relationship with a client (individual or team), there must be a phase in which a relationship is formed and formal/informal rules are agreed.
Richard Keegan

5. Needs Analysis — Establishing Needs, Skills, Demands and Goals

Abstract
A needs analysis involves using various techniques to assess, measure and ultimately understand the client’s current psychological needs: usually with a view to working out how best to help the client. The needs analysis process can include attempts to: (a) classify or diagnose the client’s issues/concerns; (b) identify the aetiology (causal chain) producing the client’s issues/concerns; (c) assess the impact/consequences of the current behaviours, issues, conflicts, etc.; and (d) to offer a ‘prognosis’ or prediction of what changes are needed, and how they might generate an impact (e.g., Gardner & Moore, 2006, p. 43). This chapter will also suggest other uses, such as monitoring progress and informing the termination process. As noted in Chapter 4, aspects of needs analysis may be deployed during the intake process and, likewise, needs analysis should ideally continue throughout the relationship in order to evaluate the effects of advice or responses to recent events.
Richard Keegan

6. Case Formulation — Creating a Working Model

Abstract
While sport and exercise psychologists frequently carry out core tasks of needs analysis (Chapter 5) and delivering interventions (Chapters 8 and 9), there is very little consensus regarding the ways that these key roles are related, with the one informing the other. This chapter (as well as Chapter 7) seeks to help practising psychologists to structure, record, evaluate and reflect upon their decision-making processes. As is the case throughout this book, the core task of case formulation is presented as being carried out by a psychologist whether explicit or not. Even if it has never crossed one’s mind to perform a case formulation, a practising psychologist is doing it anyway. It might be that the psychologist develops unique, detailed and fully operational working models for each client they encounter. Alternatively, it might be that s/he has ‘settled’ (consciously or unconsciously) for one model that explains how all people’s minds work, and so simply slots each client into this model. Indeed, some sport psychologists have been criticized for behaving as though ‘all these techniques work, regardless of which model one uses’ — which in itself is effectively a case formulation decision, just one that chooses to overlook or ignore the underlying mechanisms.
Richard Keegan

7. Choosing a Support Strategy — Case Formulations, Evidence and Professional Judgement

Abstract
Choosing the best course of action for our clients is a metaphorical ‘black box’ that needs to be opened up. As noted in previous chapters, whilst sport psychologists frequently conduct needs analyses and recommend interventions, the intervening steps of case conceptualization and choosing the support strategy are often very unclear — yet exploring and strengthening these processes arguably leads to more effective outcomes and better case reports. There is also a particular issue in sport psychology where different interventions (imagery, self-talk, relaxing/psyching-up, goal setting) are used to achieve many different outcomes (performance enhance, confidence, motivation, arousal/emotional control, concentration, etc.). There is little or no pattern, at this time, regarding which techniques are used to achieve which aims or why. In this chapter, we explore how this apparently haphazard approach can be damaging to clients (in unmet goals), practitioners (in lost clients and poor case reports) and the profession as a whole (‘If they can’t explain it properly, it’s all hokum!!”).
Richard Keegan

8. Planning the Support Programme

Abstract
If only we could stop once we have identified a good ‘answer’ for our clients’ questions — ‘just do this!’ — life might be so much easier. However, sport psychologists not only need to identify a promising course of action (or ‘intervention’ — i.e., Chapter 7), we also need to help ensure it actually happens. This takes the form of both planning (this chapter) and monitoring (Chapter 9) the support programme. There can be an enormous difference between knowing an appropriate strategy and meticulously implementing the desired actions every day. Many psychologists can recall the frustration of meeting an athlete and asking: ‘How did it go?’ only to be told: ‘I didn’t do what we talked about’. Likewise, as a reader and assessor of case studies, it is notable how many simply recommend a broad strategy (e.g., imagery, pre-shot routines, cognitive reframing, etc.) without any further explanation. Perhaps by consequence, it is unsurprising when case studies conclude that the support package might have worked (or worked better) if the athlete had carried out the intervention as intended. Bearing in mind that case studies are most commonly submitted by practitioners at the end of their formal training — about to become independent and registered practitioners — then we, as a profession, ‘could do better’.
Richard Keegan

9. Delivery and Monitoring (… and Knowing When You’re Finished)

Abstract
Following on from the previous chapters, sport psychologists can choose to actively monitor an intervention (set and monitor goals, compare to benchmarks, pre to post) or they can choose to be much more passive, assuming their advice has worked perfectly unless they hear otherwise. This chapter will explore the various options for the delivery and monitoring of an intervention. The available options and their advantages and disadvantages are reviewed and analysed. The consequences of failing to monitor, or monitoring inappropriately are considered in relation to the impacts on the client, the practitioner and the discipline as a whole. In addition, the preceding chapters set a clear precedent for ‘asking the right question’. Rather than simply asking ‘does it work?’, practitioners are encouraged to ask specific questions in relation to their core assumptions, the aims of the service delivery process, the client’s aims and the aims of the specific intervention. If you were seeking to enhance motivation and enjoyment, then why look for a performance improvement? If you were looking for improved communications and working relationships, how exactly should this be ‘measured’ — what would constitute acceptable evidence that the practitioner has been effective?
Richard Keegan

10. Quality Assurance Processes: Recording, Reflecting and Supervision

Abstract
In addition to the core sport psychologist’s roles outlined so far, there are also a number of important over-arching processes. Some of these processes are explicitly required by regulatory bodies, such as accurate record keeping, continued training throughout the career and supervision whilst under training. Others are more implicit requirements (or are only ‘required’ by certain countries’ regulatory bodies). These might include being a reflective practitioner who evaluates their own practice, continuing supervision or mentoring once qualified and supervising other trainee psychologists. At their core, all of these activities can be considered part of a suite of quality assurance processes. First of all, we need to define quality assurance for sport psychology as follows. Overall, quality assurance is the maintenance of a desired level of quality in a service or product, especially by means of attention to every stage of the process of delivery (as suggested by the model in this book). Then we need to apply this concept to sport psychology. As a profession, we want to ensure that a minimum standard of competence is achieved through the training and qualification pathway we offer, but we also want to pursue continual improvement and ‘best practice’. Remember that it is almost impossible to identify one true/right/best way of doing sport psychology, as evidenced in the previous nine chapters.
Richard Keegan
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