Characteristics of an Effective Sport Psychology Consultant: Perspectives from Athletes and Consultants
Lubker, John R., Visek, Amanda J., Geer, John R., Watson, Jack C., II, Journal of Sport Behavior
In the realm of sport psychology consulting, there are generally held images of how effective sport psychology consultants (SPC) look and behave (e.g., confident, athletic, easily fits into the sport environment) while consulting with athletes and teams (Lubker, Watson, Visek & Geer, 2005). Over the past two decades, efforts have been made to improve the quality of applied sport psychology work by identifying the characteristics and qualities that are utilized by successful consultants (Anderson, Miles, Robinson, & Mahoney, 2004; Gould, Tammen, Murphy, & May, 1991; Halliwell, 1990; Partington & Orlick, 1987a; Partington & Orlick, 1987b). It seems clear from this body of research that to be an effective service provider, one must be cognizant of the characteristics that those within sport (e.g., athletes, teams, and coaches) believe to be essential characteristics for a SPC to possess. Despite this aforementioned research, there seems to be a need for additional research to help construct a more comprehensive image of what constitutes an effective SPC.
Factors Influencing a Therapeutic Relationship
Previous research has suggested that several specific factors are likely to have an effect on the relationships between consultants (or counselors) and clients. These factors include, but are not limited to: (a) characteristics of the client, (b) nature of the problem, (c) personal and professional characteristics of the consultant (e.g., expertness, attractiveness, and trustworthiness), (d) techniques used by the consultant, and (e) quality of the relationship between the consultant and the client (Martin et al., 2001). Before entering into any helping relationship, clients often have certain expectations and attitudes about the services they are seeking. Martin, Wrisberg, Beitel, and Lounsbury (1997) studied NCAA Division I athletes' attitudes towards seeking sport psychology consultation and found stigma tolerance, confidence in a SPC/recognition of need, and openness/willingness to try a SPC as the client characteristics most responsible for whether or not athletes seek consultation. Further research exploring high school and college athletes' attitudes towards sport psychology services found prior experience with consulting to be significantly related to more confidence and less stigma when seeking those services (Martin, 2005). These results indicate that client characteristics and attitudes can have a significant effect on help seeking behavior.
Additionally, personal and professional characteristics of SPCs may also affect consulting relationships. Other research indicates that counselors who are perceived by their clients as experts and attractive (as opposed to non-expert and unattractive) may have a greater influence over the therapeutic relationship (Strong & Dixon, 1971). Inherent in the consulting process is the need for a quality relationship between consultant and client. In an extensive review of the counseling literature, Sexton and Whiston (1994) conclude that the relationship between counselor and client appears to be the only factor which consistently aids in establishing a productive therapeutic process. In other words, the counseling or consultation process may rest extensively on one's ability to create an honest, trusting, and collaborative relationship.
Qualities of Effective Service Providers
Although counselors and SPCs often function in different capacities, there seems to be a good deal of intuitive commonality in the services that they provide and the relationships that they build. The commonality between these two professions appears to be increasing as sport psychology training programs continue to incorporate counselor training into their curriculums. While direct comparison of the two professions is not warranted, there do appear to be similarities between the service delivery of counselors and that of SPCs. For instance, since both types of practitioners need to be concerned with a client's personal well-being, it would seem that effective characteristics for counselors may also be valuable for a SPC. …