Many undergraduate and graduate students have contacted Dr. Wiernik regarding her advice on what road to take in becoming a sport psychologist or a sport psychology consultant. There are a few roads to take so it is very important that you think before you decide on a graduate psychology program. In order to be a sport psychologist you will need to attend a doctoral program in clinical or counseling psychology. This is about approximately 5 to 9 years after a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. The benefits of this degree give you the most comprehensive training possible. You will learn how to counsel first.
In her clinical psychology program Dr. Wiernik was trained to do psychological testing/assessment, family/couples therapy, group therapy, and individual therapy with all populations. This training is why she can counsel all ages. Dr. Wiernik has significant training to diagnose all mental disorders. Athletes are people and have the same emotional issues as the rest of the population. She does not have to refer to someone else because she has the training to work with most issues. So if you are looking to obtain a doctorate degree and want to be a sport psychologist then you have to obtain a doctorate degree in counseling or clinical psychology. If the program is not sport based you can take sport psychology courses either at your university or online at other universities. Dr. Wiernik took sport psychology related classes in her undergraduate education and then took additional classes at another university to ensure more sport psychology training. Online universities make it easier than ever to get the classes you need. Dr. Wiernik recommends this route for a few additional reasons. After completing your education and licensure requirements you will be better able to get a job in the counseling field. Realistically it will take time to get experience and referrals in sport psychology. The field is still growing and full-time salaried jobs are scarce. There are few full-time sport psychologists at the university, professional, and Olympic levels. Having counseling training either at the master’s or doctoral level will allow you to counsel people not just athletes and can give you more options. The benefits of a mental health degree with a license to practice in your state allow you to have a private practice which gives you greater flexibility as an entrepreneur.
There are master’s and doctorate degrees in sport/performance psychology or exercise/sport science/kinesiology. These programs may not give you enough counseling training to be a licensed counselor or psychologist. Additionally there are limited job opportunities and you cannot diagnose and counsel mental health related concerns. Many positions are with the US armed forces, some work in private practice, or in sport related settings. The degree is meant for mostly for performance enhancement with athletes, military personnel, or other performers. In order to be a sport psychologist you have to have a degree in clinical or counseling psychology. Dr. Wiernik feels that it is important to know how to work effectively with people. She feels that as a sport psychology consultant you will work with parents, families, coaches, medical personnel, and administrative personnel. It is recommended that one has adequate preparation in working with the comprehensive athlete and you can address athlete related issues such as coping with injury, career identity/transition, mental health issues, family/parenting concerns, etc. She recommends a dual counseling/sport psychology background whether at the master’s or doctoral level. For additional information regarding choosing a sport psychology program click: