Practitioner development: adopting and adapting service delivery approaches
By the time you reach this chapter in the book, you have learned about the different service delivery approaches used by sport, exercise, and performance psychologists. Maybe in reflecting on the chapters, several questions came to mind, such as: Which approaches are for me. and which are not? Do the different approaches exclude each other, or can I ‘mix and match”? How do I choose an approach and make it my own? What if the approach I choose does not fit with my client or the aims for the work with the client, and how do I discover a more suitable approach? Do I limit myself if I choose one specific approach?
At least, these are questions and doubts often raised by the neophyte/early career sport psychology consultants we work with. These questions are an integral part of professional development but may not just occur in newbies in the field. More experienced practitioners may at some point also realize that their original approach needs modification or extension may no longer suit them, or is sub-optimal with certain clients. With tliis chapter we aim to help both aspiring and seasoned consultants on their journeys to adopt and adapt specific approaches in their sport psychology practice, that is. sen ice deliveiy approaches (e g.. McEwan. Tod. & Eubank. 2019).
Early days: doing as you are told?
Romiestad and Skovholt (e g.. 2003, 2013) describe the professional development of psychology practitioners in five different phases: novice student, advanced student, novice professional, experienced professional, and senior professional. They outline different developmental tasks for different phases. For novice and advanced students, one of the developmental tasks is to select theories and techniques to apply in practice—in other words, choosing an approach or approaches (Roimestad. Orlinsky. Schroder. Skovholt. & Wilhitzki. 2018). When you are in the novice or advanced student phase, the education programme in which you participate is clearly of major influence on the direction in which you develop. Therefore, sport psychology training programs should help students with their developmental task of selecting sen ice delivery approaches and subsequently gaining expertise in specific approaches. There are. however, issues with how sport psychology training programs ty pically facilitate this developmental task.
First, teachers and supervisors in training programs form the most important role models for beginning and advanced students in sport psychology. They are followed and imitated, usually quite rigorously, by aspiring sport psychology consultants in the student phases (e.g.. Tod. 2007). Although role models to learn from are useful and important, there is a risk attached in terms of finding and shaping a suitable sen ice deliveiy approach. Oftentimes teachers and supervisors in an education program will be representatives of the dominant school of practice in the cultural context of the training program. This means that exposure of students to other approaches in sport psychology may be (very) limited. Teachers and supervisors may. for example, collectively advocate and represent the mental skills training approach (Lindsay. Breckon. Thomas. & Maynard. 2007). Their students are then mostly exposed to the mental skills training approach. There may be a lack of exposure to. or professional role models for. other approaches. With such limited exposure to various approaches, students may simply not be aware that different approaches in sport psychology exist, and they may not even realize that they are actually adopting a specific approach, thereby implicitly excluding others.
Second, in the early developmental phases, students are very keen to obtain practical skills, to be able to "do stuff' and be “hands-on” (e.g.. Hutter. Oldenhof-Veldman. & Oudejans. 2015; Tod. 2007). Although they find reading literature useful, they are drawn to content they can directly apply in practice (Hutter. Oldenhof-Veldman. Pijpers. & Oudejans. 2016. McEwan & Tod. 2014). Texts about the basics and fundamentals of a specific approach (for example the works of Rogers. Yung, or Yalom on humanistic, psychodynamic, or existential psychologj respectively) usually do not fall in the “ready-to-apply” category of literature. Therefore, students may end up applying a specific approach without a thorough understanding of the what. why. and how of the approach, subsequently leading to suboptimal application of the approach. Moreover, with their preference for applicable knowledge, students in the developmental stage may be prone to grab w hatever model offers a hands-on guide for professional activities.
To summarize, with the risks of limited exposure to. and suboptimal understanding of. approaches for sport psychology practice, the developmental task of committing to certain theories and techniques and “closing off” others (Romrestad et al., 2018) may not be executed well. Tliis may well explain the feelings of incongruence that neophyte practitioners experience between their being, their beliefs, and their actions in practice (e.g.. Lindsay et al., 2007). Practitioners may even become disillusioned with their training (e.g., Ron-nestad & Skovholt. 2013) as they experience limited usefulness or fit of the approach they were taught. Thus, in the end doing as you are told (or shown) is insufficient, and an active search for an optimal person-approach fit is required.