Sports Psychology Consultant

Sport  psychology  professionals  maintain  an  ethical  obligation  to  ensure  services  are  helping  clients (and conversely, not harming them), and thus allowing  clients  the  opportunity  to  provide  feedback is a key element of effective service provision.

Components of Evaluation

There  are  a  variety  of  subjective  (or  self-report) and  objective  measures  available  that  consultants can select to evaluate the effectiveness of any consultation. Self-report forms typically include items focused on characteristics of the consultant, positive  and  negative  experiences  with  the  consultation, impact on team and individual performance, ratings  of  individual  intervention  components, time  spent  on  aspects  of  the  consultation,  and specific information learned. Items can ask clients to rate their agreement or disagreement with particular statements, or they may ask clients to rate satisfaction  (from  “not  at  all  satisfied”  to  “very satisfied”)  with  specific  intervention  components. Often,  these  forms  allow  open  space  for  athletes to  express  confidential  feedback  regarding  any aspect  of  the  consultation.  It  may  also  be  useful to solicit similar feedback from the coaching and other  support  staff,  assuming  they  were  involved as clients in a team consultation. These self-report data  solicited  from  athletes  and  coaches  can  be critical to helping consultants understand if the clients’ needs are being met, and if there is a desire to continue services in the future. It is best practice to have someone else besides the consultant administer these subjective forms so clients can feel free to express their true opinions.

These  subjective  measures  of  effectiveness  can be  complemented  with  objective  measures  to provide  a  more  comprehensive  evaluation  model. Depending  on  the  nature  of  the  consultation,  the professional may choose a specific behavior (e.g., improved first-serve percentage or reduced penalty minutes) or performance indicator (e.g., defensive points against, running or swimming time in a specific event) that is a relevant dependent variable in the consultation. If the consultant intends to share this behavioral or performance data at a scientific meeting or in the form of a scholarly publication, an  informed  consent  for  research  prior  to  data collection  must  be  obtained.  If  the  data  remain internal  to  the  consultation,  then  a  brief  discussion  of  the  measurement  approach  and  intervals for data collection is sufficient. The key dependent variables in any consultation emerge from a joint discussion  between  client  and  consultant  based around the question, “How would we know if the time spent on sport psychology services was worth the effort?”

Timing of Evaluation

Most professionals suggest that postseason (or termination)  evaluations  are  necessary  to  meet  the minimum  requirement  for  evaluation.  However, best practice guidance from the literature suggests that  an  ongoing  evaluation  with  regular  tracking of performance and behavioral data is a more useful and effective approach. Thus, subsequent to a needs assessment and the identification of individual  client  or  team  needs,  the  parties  can  put  into place a transparent system that allows everyone to track progress toward objective goals. Additionally, consultants may want to gather self-reported feedback from all involved parties at regular intervals throughout  the  consultation,  at  least  once  in  the middle and once at the end of the experience.

In sum, a comprehensive approach to evaluation has the potential to generate empirical support for the efficacy of sport psychology interventions and strengthen the field as a whole. Without the checks and  balances  provided  through  a  comprehensive evaluation  system,  sport  psychology  practice  can seem like a trial-and-error process, and will likely prove less efficient and potentially less effective for the consumer.

References:

  1. Anderson, A. G., Miles, A., Mahoney, C., & Robinson, P. (2002). Evaluating the effectiveness of applied sport psychology practice: Making the case for a case study approach. The Sport Psychologist, 16, 432–453.
  2. Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology. (n.d.). Ethics code: AASP ethical principles and standards. Retrieved June 12, 2012, from http://appliedsportpsych.org/about/ethics/code
  3. Gould, D., Murphy, S., Tammen, V., & May, J. (1991). An evaluation of US Olympic sport psychology consultant effectiveness. The Sport Psychologist, 5(2), 111–127.
  4. Grove, J. R., Norton, P. J., Van Raalte, J. L., & Brewer, B. W. (1999). Stages of change as an outcome measure in the evaluation of mental skills training programs. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 22–41.
  5. Partington, J., & Orlick, T. (1987). The sport psychology consultant evaluation form. The Sport Psychologist, 1, 309–317.

 

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