Career Certifications

Professional certification serves to identify individuals  who  have  obtained  or  maintained  qualifications to perform a specific work responsibility or task. Furthermore, certification indirectly serves to safeguard  the  public  interest  by  assuring  that  the public  can  identify  qualified  professionals.  In  the United  States,  the  Association  for  Applied  Sport Psychology (AASP) certifies master’s and doctoral trained  professionals  as  Certified  Consultants (CC-AASP).  CC-AASP  professionals  are  qualified  to  assist  with  performance  issues  that  affect people in all areas of sport and exercise. Although other certifications in sport psychology exist, this entry  is  focused  on  the  CC-AASP  certification because of its connection to the largest nonprofit international  organization  (AASP)  committed  to promoting  the  science  and  practice  of  sport  and exercise  psychology,  and  because  the  CC-AASP certification  requirements  are  consistent  with the  American  Psychological  Association  (APA) Division 47 Proficiency in Sport Psychology.

Certification and Licensure

Certification  is  the  process  by  which  a  nongovernmental organization, in this case AASP, grants recognition  to  an  individual  who  has  met  predetermined  qualifications  specified  by  that  organization.  The  process  of  certification  is  voluntary. Certified  individuals  have  demonstrated  the  level of knowledge and skill required in the profession, and the certification serves to identify the occupation, role, and skills to the public and stakeholders. Professional practice can be governed by legal requirements. When this is the case, professionals in practice must be licensed. Licensure is given to one  by  the  state.  Licensure  is  the  state’s  grant  of legal authority, pursuant to the state’s police powers,  to  practice  a  profession  within  a  designated scope  of  practice.  States  define,  by  statute,  the tasks  and  scope  of  practice  of  a  profession  and provide that these tasks may be legally performed only by those who are licensed. Licensure prohibits  anyone  from  practicing  the  profession  who  is not licensed, regardless of whether or not the individual has been certified by a private organization. To date, the scope of practice defined by AASP certification is not governed by legal requirements.

The   most   common   services   provided   by CC-AASP  professionals  include  educating  individuals, groups, and organizations about the role of  psychological  factors  in  sport,  exercise,  and physical activity, and teaching participants specific mental,  behavioral,  psychosocial,  and  emotional control  skills  in  these  physical  contexts.  To  date, these activities are not governed by legal requirements,  thus  there  is  no  requirement  for  practicing  professionals  to  be  licensed  to  provide  these services. Moreover, APA Division 47 Exercise and Sport  Psychology  has  also  identified  the  specific knowledge and training necessary for ethical professional practice in the exercise and sport context. The  requirements  for  CC-AASP  and  the  Division 47  Proficiency  in  Sport  Psychology  are  consistent  and  provide  clear  descriptions  of  a  model for  appropriate  training  for  service  providers  in applied sport and exercise psychology.

Certification  assists  in  defining  the  professional  and  ethical  responsibility  of  individuals participating  in  consulting  in  applied  sport  and exercise  environments.  In  addition,  certification offers  the  public  a  definition  and  example  of  the training  necessary  for  quality  service.  This  in turn provides greater public understanding of the importance and possible impact of the application of  psychology  to  sport  and  exercise.  An  example of  this  import  role  for  CC-AASP  certification  is that  the  United  States  Olympic  Committee  Sport Psychology  Registry  requires  CC-AASP  certification for inclusion on the registry to work with U.S. Olympic athletes.

Requirements for Competent and Ethical Practice

CC-AASP  and  Division  47  Proficiency  in  Sport Psychology requirements specify that extensive disciplinary knowledge in sport and exercise psychology  is  required  for  professionals  to  competently practice  applied  sport  psychology.  Although  consistent, the two sets of requirements differ in that CC-AASP  requirements  rely  upon  clearly  defined necessities  in  coursework,  whereas  the  Division 47  Proficiency  requirements  specify  content  area necessities for the ethical practice in sport psychology.  For  both  the  CC-AASP  and  the  Division  47 Proficiency in Sport Psychology requirements, professionals  must  have  knowledge  in  the  following areas:  professional  ethics  and  standards;  biomechanical or physiological bases of physical activity; historical, philosophical, social, or motor behavior bases of physical activity; psychopathology and its assessment; counseling skills; research design, statistics, or psychological assessment; biological bases of  behavior;  cognitive-affective  bases  of  behavior; and individual behavior. For CC-AASP, the majority of the courses must be taken at the graduate level and the individual must have completed a master’s or doctoral program. Furthermore, adequate training must include demonstrated competence in the field with mentored structured experiences. Finally, applied sport psychology professionals must show evidence of continued learning to maintain professional expertise. A process of certification renewal exists in the case of CC-AASP to support this end. One  important  side  note  is  that  the  Division  47 Proficiency  in  Sport  Psychology  has  included  the knowledge  of  organizational  and  system  aspects of  sport  consulting  as  a  content  area  that  is  not inherently  embedded  within  the  specified  coursework requirements for CC-AASP. Nonetheless, the overall  uniformity  across  CC-AASP  and  Division 47  Proficiency  in  Sport  Psychology  requirements supports  a  clear  and  consistent  depiction  of  the professional expertise required to practice applied exercise and sport psychology.

Commentary on Necessity for Clearly Defined Expertise and Practice

The  AASP  certification  process  initiated  in  1989 and  has  certified  over  250  professionals.  One could argue that, for a licensed mental health care practitioner,  there  is  little  motivation  to  become CC-AASP  certified.  Yet  there  is  growing  interest in Applied Sport Psychology, and ethical practitioners committed to competent professional practice continue to seek opportunities to learn more about sport and exercise psychology and document professional credentials. A goal would be to increase the  number  of  Certified  Consultants  so  that  the number  reaches  a  critical  mass  that  provides  an awareness of this credential to the general public. One  challenge  that  exists  for  professionals  in  the field is the difficulty in meeting specific coursework requirements. As the academic discipline continues to grow, there is the possibility for accessing online courses. In addition, AASP may consider approving  continuing  education  credits  to  fulfill  knowledge requirements. These as well as other options must  be  sensitive  to  maintaining  the  quality  and rigor of the certification coursework requirements. Aoyagi,  Portenga,  Poczwardowski,  Cohen,  and Statler (2012) have argued that another possibility for  increasing  access  and  feasibility  of  CC-AASP certification for professionals in the field is to consider a certification exam. Again, the intent would not be to reduce the rigor of the certification process; in fact, those seeking the exam option could still  be  required  to  have  a  graduate  degree  and specific  coursework.  However,  the  exam  option would  allow  for  standardized  assessment  of  the core  content  knowledge  while  offering  a  more accessible option for practitioners. An exam might offer  a  feasible  alternative  to  the  current  process without diminishing the quality or meaningfulness of the certification.

International Developments in Professional Practice

There is growing international interest in defining the appropriate knowledge and experience for the professional practice of applied exercise and sport psychology. The terms used to identify and define professional  practice  and  credentials  (accredited, chartered, registered, certified, licensed) vary from country to country. However, the criteria identify the unique professional expertise required in sport and exercise. For example, the British Association of  Sport  and  Exercise  Sciences  has  an  accreditation for sport psychology with the title Accredited Sport  and  Exercise  Scientist.  In  addition,  the British  Psychological  Society  Division  of  Sport and  Exercise  Psychology  has  criteria  for  individual  professionals  to  become  Chartered  Sport  and Exercise Psychologists. Furthermore, the Australia Psychology Society College of Sport Psychologists has qualifications beyond those required for basic registration that requires a minimum of 6 years of university training, plus 2 years of supervised practical  experience  in  sport  psychology.  It  is  evident that  credentials  for  the  expertise  are  in  demand and that this trend is likely to continue and extend across the globe.

Certification  provides  a  clear  definition  of  the qualifications  necessary  to  practice  sport  and exercise  psychology.  CC-AASP  certification  is open  to  licensed  clinical  professional  counselors, licensed  clinical  social  workers,  individuals  with master’s  level  (MS,  MA,  MEd,  or  EdM)  counselor  licensure,  individuals  with  doctoral  degrees (EdD,  PsyD,  or  PhD)  generally  from  Council for   Accreditation   of   Counseling   and   Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or APA accredited programs, or individuals from MS or PhD programs in Exercise and Sport Psychology. CC-AASP is a credential (not a licensure) from a professional organization  that  oversees  standards  in  practice and training. CC-AASP without licensure can limit professional  opportunities  to  those  that  focus  on performance enhancement or mental skills coaching.  However,  CC-AASP  certified  professionals who also hold a license are well equipped to help a range of individuals with a range of mental health problems  often  linked  to  human  performance decrements. The CC-AASP credential is becoming increasingly meaningful within the world of sport and exercise psychology, and is often preferred by employers  seeking  sport  and  exercise  psychology expertise.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association. (2013). Public description of sport psychology. Retrieved from http:// www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/sports.aspx
  2. Aoyagi, M. W., Portenga, S. T., Poczwardowski, A., Cohen, A. B., & Statler, T. (2012). Reflections and directions: The profession of sport psychology past, present, and future. Journal of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 43, 32–38. doi: 10.1037/a0025676
  3. Association for Applied Sport Psychology. (n.d.). About applied sport and exercise psychology. Retrieved from http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/about/aboutapplied-sport-psych
  4. Association for Applied Sport Psychology. (n.d.). Become a certified consultant. Retrieved from http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/Consultants/become-certified
  5. Australian Psychological Society, College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists. (2012). How to join. Retrieved from http://www.groups.psychology.org.au/csep/join
  6. The British Association of Sport and Exerise Sciences. (n.d.). Accreditation. Retrieved from http://www.bases.org.uk/Accreditation/Accreditation
  7. The British Psychological Society, Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology. (n.d.). How to join. Retrieved from http://spex.bps.org.uk/spex/join/join_home.cfm

See also: