Do athletes think a sport psychologist can help them? As an athlete who has competed throughout my entire life and has had a consistent passion for studying and applying sport psychology for the benefit of my clients and my own performance, the answer is a resounding “YES!” But for many athletes there may still be a stigma associated with seeking psychological help, a strong “I can do it” attitude that assumes they should be able to solve their own problems, or suspicion of a practitioner that has been hired by a coach or organization. What we know from research on the efficacy of general psychology and therapeutic work is that we can attribute the majority of positive outcomes to (1) quality of the client-therapist relationship and (2) the client’s expectation that they will get the help they need (e.g., through sport psychology interventions or a particular practitioner). Assessment could be key in identifying the client’s expectations, direction of the relationship, and how to allocate resources (e.g., time, topics, group vs. individual interventions, etc).
The Sport Interference Checklist (SIC) can help a sport psychologist focus in the right direction from the beginning of the consulting relationship. The SIC was designed to help consultants understand what issues athletes are experiencing and identify which athletes are motivated to pursue assistance through work with a sport psychologist. This measure is particularly useful for working with teams because it is unlikely that the sport psychologist will have the capability of meeting with every athlete to explore their needs and understand their attitude towards sport psychology. Especially when initial contact is being made, the athletes may not feel comfortable discussing these topics, making a simple pencil-and-paper questionnaire all the more valuable. The results of this simple 10-minute measure will assist the sport psychologist in determining how to prioritize psycho-educational topics, provide an indication on how receptive athletes are to outside assistance, and anticipate how easily rapport will be established with a particular team. Additionally, this assessment asks athletes to indicate if particular problems interfere with training and/or competition, which may help a sport psychologist intuit if difficulties are performance based versus consequences of a personality trait or life issues, which may require referral. It is important to note that response norms may vary between gender and sport type. The SIC is an excellent assessment tool that asks athletes directly what they need help with and if they think we can help them find a solution. By directly asking athletes how we can best address their needs and those of the team, we can avoid making faulty assumptions and guessing at how to focus our time and energy. The SIC is a great solution for efficiently tailoring interventions to address areas of concern and those issues that have shown greater prevalence throughout the team as well as to maximize our effectiveness as a sport psychology consultant.
Donohue, B., Silver, N. C., Dickens, Y., Covassin, T, & Lancer, K. (2007). Development and initial psychometric evaluation of the sport interference checklist. Behavior Modification, 31(6), 937-957.