The developing sport psychologist: A journey from trainee to experienced practitioner

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


There is a growing body of literature into practitioner development and training, with increasing numbers of students embarking on careers in applied sport psychology. Research on professional development has focused on discrete phases (e.g., novice phase) or components of training (e.g., reflective practice). There has been limited investigation on holistic development across the career span. This thesis draws on counsellor development theory to present research on how UK sport psychologists mature across the career span, and the influences on those changes, and compared sport psychologists with clinical and counselling counterparts. Study one employed a cross-sectional qualitative design to explore the learning experiences clinical, counselling, and sport psychologists perceived as influential to their service delivery competence. To further build on comparisons between different sub-disciplines of psychologist, a longitudinal study design was employed to examine developmental change in clinical, counselling, and sport trainee psychologists during postgraduate training, drawing upon counsellor development theory. Themes of professional development generated from study two were used to examine changes and influences experienced during the careers of senior sport psychologists (study three). Research from all three studies provided evidence that counsellor development models can contribute to understanding how sport psychologists mature.
This thesis revealed how sport psychologists changed with practice and the influences upon those changes. Collectively, the findings highlight the importance of interpersonal relations at all career phases (trainee, novice, senior). Together, the three studies contribute towards the proposal of a bioecological model of sport psychologist development based on Bronfenbrenner and Morris (2006). The parameters of the ecological context have not previously been considered in sport psychologist training and development. Considering development in the context of Bronfenbrenner’s model has integrated knowledge of those dynamics which facilitate growth. The thesis presents practical implications for sport psychologist training and development and expands theoretical understanding of practitioner maturation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Baker, Julien, Supervisor
  • Murray, Rowena, Supervisor
  • Tod, David, Supervisor, External person
Award date29 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2016


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