As part of our Spotlight on Sport & Exercise Psychology Members, we are outlining the strategies used by one of our graduate students to secure placements in the practice of sport psychology. At the present time, there continue to be no psychology graduate programs and training in sport psychology practice that coincide with psychology licensure. See the interview below for some ideas on how you, as a student in the field, might develop your own innovative practical training.
- Thank you for joining us to talk about your experiences pursuing sport and exercise psychology in counselling psychology. Could you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Zarina Giannone and I am graduating from my Master of Arts degree (Counselling Psychology) at the University of British Columbia in May, 2016. My competitive athletic history playing on the Canadian National Soccer Team (youth) and the UBC Women's Soccer Team, has inspired my research and clinical work with athletes. My Master’s thesis titled, Life after sport: The relationship between athletic identity and mental health outcomes after sport retirement, received SSHRC funding and is currently under peer-review. I am eager to start my PhD in September, 2016 (UBC) to continue building my program of study in this area.
I also identify as an avid student leader in Canada. I serve as the Chair for the Section for Students in Psychology (CPA) and as a Board Member on the CPA Board of Directors. Recently, I participated in a lobby day with the CPA Board and the Federal Government in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, which involved advocating for increased access to psychological services and scientific funding in Canada. The Board is composed of representatives from different areas within psychology in Canada, some of who primarily subscribe to practice, others who subscribe to science, and some to both. During our meetings with the Members of Parliament and Ministers, some of the more common areas in psychology (i.e., clinical, health, industrial-organizational) were leveraged to advance our lobbying platform. On more than one occasion, I gave voice to the need for sport psychology research and its applications in our society. I was proud to represent the unique intersection of counselling and sport psychology in this capacity.
- In what ways have you integrated formal and informal training in sport psychology alongside your program requirements in counselling psychology?
Graduate Level Coursework & Research
Coming from a pure psychology background, I feel like I have had to get creative in honing skills and opportunities within realm of sport psychology. One of the obvious solutions was to pursue graduate level coursework in sport psychology (UBC) with Dr. Peter Crocker, who graciously agreed to serve on my thesis committee and who ended up contributing an expert perspective on athlete transition and well-being.
Professional Associations and Networking
Another experience which I pursued involved participating in a number of professional associations (e.g., Canadian Sport Psychology Association (CSPA), Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), The Society for Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology (APA, Division 47), which allowed for the opportunity to network with other professionals and learn more deeply about the thriving field of sport psychology.
Clinical Placements and Independent Work
I was fortunate enough to earn a clinical placement at a local college where I worked closely with student-athletes in both individual and group counselling settings. The primary focus of the placement was to work with the wider college student population in a counselling capacity and as an instructor for an introductory psychology course. However, it turned out to be so much more than that. I was very fortunate to collaborate with the Athletic Department and Dr. Laura Farres, who holds a PhD in Sport Psychology (University of Ottawa), to develop a stronger support system for student-athletes at the college. This included developing programming for varsity athletes as well as a referral system to work with me (the athletics counsellor) on an individual basis and/or our network of mental skills trainers. Additionally, my independent work with individual athletes and teams in the community were also rewarding opportunities to learn, grow, and affect change.
- What have you enjoyed the most about your training experiences?
Looking back, I believe the most memorable experience from my training thus far was the athlete career transition groups that I designed and facilitated with varsity athletes at the college. As a Master’s student, I felt honoured to be in a position where I was trusted to deliver helpful and effective sessions to student-athletes. It was particularly meaningful for me because I was able to apply many of the theories and research findings which I had come across throughout my thesis.
- What recommendations do you have for fellow students interested in pursuing a similar educational experience?
In my experience, I developed a solid foundational knowledge of psychology and counselling and I worked hard to acquire diverse experiences within the field. I realized at a very early age that the career path which I wanted to pursue required me to obtain doctoral level training in professional psychology. After all, I aspired to become a practicing “sport1” psychologist. I utilized the transferable skills that I gained from my competitive soccer days to pursue an academically challenging program. For me, it was all about finding a good balance between research and clinical opportunities in both sport and counselling psychology settings. Something that I found to be incredibly helpful was connecting with other individuals who also found themselves at the same crossroads between counselling/clinical psychology and sport psychology. Another resource that was truly valuable were my athlete friends and former teammates, who notified me of their real-world needs and experiences, which helped guide and inform my decision-making process.
1 The term sport is in quotations because one cannot register as a psychologist in an area of specialization in Canada (e.g., clinical psychologist, sport psychologist); rather, the correct terminology and credential for psychologists in Canada is “Registered or Certified Psychologist”.
Sport/Exercise Psychology Programs
A list of programs for education and/or training in sport/exercise psychology will be posted here soon.
A list of supervisors is currently being compiled to assist you in obtaining your practicum and/or licensing or certification hours. Please check here for the latest updates!