Welcome to the Voice of Counseling from the American Counseling Association. Today we're going to listen in on a conversation about sports counseling featuring Giscard Petion and ACA's current president, Dr. Kimberly Frazier. Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in sports counseling or finding a sports counselor to work with, today's episode will give you a sneak peek into how sports counselors help clients that they serve. Giscard Petion is a doctoral candidate in the Counselor Education and Practice Program at Georgia State University, and he's a former student athlete. Giscard is a registered mental health intern in the state of Florida where he runs his own practice focused on clinical mental health for athletes and mental performance. And he does research and presentations on the mental health of athletes.
Giscard thank you so much for meeting with us today. I really am so excited about this because I'm excited about sports psych. I just went to the conference, so I'm glad that we were able to get some time with you, and I hope that we'll be able to talk about the relaunch of the interest group and ACA as well. But I wanted to start it off and ask, so what is sports counseling?
Yeah, that's a good question and a loaded one because like you said, you mentioned sports psych, and I think sport sports psychology has had a monopoly or a fixture on the mental health and mental performance within sports. So I think we're still formulating what sports counseling is. We're still creating that. But what I would envision it as and what I imagine other counselors or mental health counselors that work with athletes would envision it as is a departure from hard and fast mental performance, and working on things that will actually improve athletic performance solely, and more so looking at things that contribute to their athletes' overall health and wellness.
And what I want to make sure to say is that it's not necessarily, we're not thinking as a sports counselor, you're not going to be not thinking about performance at all. Your interventions and your work would definitely focus on trying to hopefully improve performance. But that that clinical piece is important. And you would also be working on a lot of holistic stuff or how they're doing in different domains of their life, whether it's financial, physical, obviously mental, and then also the athletic performance. So I think that's what I would describe as being a sports counselor. There's a lot of different hats.
Okay. I'm glad you bought up sports psych and how they had a monopoly or how you felt like they had a monopoly. Is there a specific certification for the sports counseling right now?
Or how is sports counseling different from, say, sports psychology in the departments?
Yeah. Yeah. So there is no specific certification for a counselor like the hard and fast counseling with athletes or being a counselor with athletes. The Association for Applied Sports Psychology does have a certified Mental Performance Coach, which a lot of institutions and organizations that are hiring mental health professionals that work with athletes, they look for that certification. So if you are a counselor that wants to work with athletes, you can get that certification. All of our requirements, our course requirements definitely fit into that certification. But in terms of a counseling specific certification, no, there isn't one.
But in terms of an organization or a body that unifies professionals that are doing this work, the only thing that's present right now is the Association for Applied Sports Psychology, which, you and I saw each other at the conference this year. There is a lot of counselors that attend that conference, and it is a good place to meet other folks that do this work. But as far as a counseling specific organization that does this work, there is not one present. There's not one specific that's aligned with ACA. There is an organization called CCSPA, the Clinical Counseling and Sports Psychology Association, but that one's not as advertised. And again, it's not affiliated with ACA or anything like that.
Talk more about, because I know when I was at the conference, the big thing was they did talk about the certification, but the benefit of the counseling pieces that we can do, the interventions and stuff like that. Can you expand a little bit more on that and talk about that?
Sure, sure. So I can. So the traditionally a mental performance coach or a sports psychologist, what they tend to work with an athlete on is the hard and fast sport specific improvement intervention. So if an athlete can't make a free throw because something else is on their mind, or if they're struggling and they can't focus, while they're playing, while they're trying to catch a football, or on the volleyball court they're missing digs or that kind of thing, a mental performance coach would work with them on visualizations or mindfulness techniques to try to improve those aspects that are happening on the court, or on the field, or what have you.
Now, a lot of those professionals, unfortunately are not, all of them, but a lot of those professionals are not equipped to actually help an athlete with some aspects or issues that they're having trouble with in life. So relationships, or they're their depression, or anxiety that exists outside of the court or of the field of play. And I think a lot of folks will say, "Okay, well why can't they just work with a regular counselor?" And I think that's a good question.
Because the reason why is because I think there is a certain makeup that an athlete has that makes it important for somebody who is knowledgeable about sports, well versed in sports, and knowledgeable about the psyche of an athlete to intervene in a way that is suitable and that is also more tailored towards their eventual holistic change. And that's important because I think a lot of folks... There's a lot of research out there that several researchers are doing, but also a lot of folks talk about this externalization process and the achievement mind, achievement orientation that athletes have where they externalize that achievement. Because they're so used to getting things done on the field or on the court, and that bleeds into their day-to-day life.
And so that's why it's helpful for someone who is versed in sports and athletics to intervene with athletes in a way that's different from a traditional counselor. I'm not saying that a traditional counselor can't do it, but I do think that it would be helpful for them to get some a background or knowledge based on how athletes' minds work because it is a little bit different.
You bring up a great point about just having a good idea of the day in the life of what an athlete has to do on game day, versus what they're doing for training, versus what they're doing when it's quote unquote, "downtime." So give me an overview of the day in the life of a sports counselor. What would that look like?
Yeah, absolutely. It could look like a bunch of different things. So depending on the setting you're in. So let me give you an example. So a lot of folks that I know work at universities. So they are embedded in the athletic department at a particular university. And that work can look a bunch of different ways. So a sports council or a therapist that's working in athletics at a university, they can do the hard and fast individual sessions. So they can have a certain number of clients scheduled a day. They can also have folks that just pop in that just need somebody to talk to at any given point.
These professionals, they can work with teams. So what they'll do is they can go out to practices. They can have workshops where they work with entire teams or entire departments and do workshops that explain different mental health processes and different psychological aspects of becoming better on the field or just better holistically. And they can also, very rarely do they do groups and stuff like that because the conflicts of interest and all that are a little bit muddy in stuff like that just in an athletic department. But it can look a variety of different ways. And that's somebody that's embedded in a athletic department.
They're also folks that do contract work, so they can be contracted with the university. And the university can send them at athletes that come to their private practice and show up and do individual sessions that way. Or they can again be contracted to come out to a practice and do different sessions or observations where they'll observe and then come back and give the athletic department or the team a report or a summary of their observations and stuff like that.
So there's a lot of variety that can happen. And one of the things that makes this work so different from traditional counseling is that we are one of the only disciplines or populations that you can actually work with your client individually in confidence and privacy, and then you can go out and see them at practice. So that's really different from hard and fast individual counseling. Because in that context, someone comes to your office, they leave, you don't know what they've got going on during their day to day. You don't know whether they're implementing some of the skills that you talked to them about or that you guys have discussed in your office. But as a sports counselor, you can go out to practice and see what they're doing. And then maybe even when they come for the next session, you can talk about it. So it is very different, but it's just as rewarding as traditional counseling.
I hear your passion and I really love that you're passionate about it. What are some skills that you think are, like top five skills that a sports counselor should have?
Yeah, so I think just a traditional counselor, flexibility is the most important thing because I can't tell you how many times where obviously just networking and talking to different people that do this work, where they usually have two phones because they have to be on call. And the coach may hit them them up and be like, "Hey, I have somebody that I think would need to see you," or, "Hey, there's a crisis going on," or, "Hey, we have this situation." So I think flexibility is important.
Obviously being organized just because you have to be flexible, it behooves you to be organized and make sure that you have most your ducks in a row in terms of your organization and having things scheduled appropriately.
I think open-mindedness is also just a very important skill or trait to have just because the wide gamut of things that you might hear or might see, and the personalities that you have to navigate, make open-mindedness just a super, super important trait.
I would think multiple personalities too, because you're not only dealing with your client, you're dealing with the coach, you're dealing with the trainers and the team?
Yeah, absolutely. No, yeah. And then on the heels of that open mindedness, you have to be a chameleon, because sometimes it's not solely just doing mental skills work or mental health work with the athletes. Sometimes it's going out to practice. And if you're traveling with a team, sometimes you're like another coach essentially, but in a different context. They know that they can talk to you about different things that they can't talk to their coaches with. So yeah, sometimes you have to be a chameleon. And yeah, I'm sure there's so many other skills that I feel like would be helpful.
I'm sure we're missing some, but how would I find a sports counselor? So I'm thinking I'm in need a one, or how would I find one? And then how would I know I need one?
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, I think those are two great questions and one's that one's happy to answer because they're important. So first and foremost, there are several different directories, people that want to find sports counselors or things like that, so-
I'm sure, so directories, list serves. How would one get access to that? Do you need to be on the list serve? How would you know this is a good sports counselor versus, no, this is not a good sports counselor? How would you make those distinctions?
Yeah, that's a good question. So I think that you look into their experience and see how long they've been doing this work. Obviously, if they've got certain certifications, whether they are listed in different directories and things of that nature. And then also just the fit, whether they are knowledgeable about your specific league or your specific sport, or that kind of thing.
And so definitely having the certified Mental Performance Consultant certification definitely helps. So if you're looking for someone that works with athletes and they have that certification, you're definitely working with a qualified professional just because the Applied Sports Psychology organization does a good job of certifying the professionals. But yeah, I think those are some different ways you can find somebody.
Yeah. Okay. How do you see diversity fitting in? I would be negligent if I didn't talk about the diversity piece in sports counseling.
Absolutely. I think that's super important. And it's so funny, actually I have a presentation at APA about integrating more practitioners of color into sports psych. So diversity, I feel like diversity comes in a lot of ways. So first and foremost, I feel like it's really important for those who have played sports to work with athletes, those who have played sports and that are counselors to work with student athletes.
And then also, I definitely think it's super important for practitioners of color to work with athletes just because the majority of student athletes, I think the specific number in the NCAA is about 47 or 48% of athletes that are in the revenue sports, so basketball, women's basketball, football are Black or of color. And so it's super important for athletes that are seeking that help to work with professionals that look like them. And so yeah, I would definitely challenge and tell those professionals of color who are trying to figure out their niches to definitely look into doing this type of work because it's really important to get more practitioners of color.
So in our last few minutes, I definitely want to give some space for the relaunch of the Sports Counseling Interest Group. What are some things that you hope to tackle in your first year of relaunch?
Yeah, I think for the relaunch of the Sports Counseling Interest Group, working with some of the governing counselor or what have you, to talk about what it looks like in the future, just because I think the profession or the niche of sports counseling is galvanized at this time. So I want to work on changing or working on something that's more representative of what actually exists out there right now. And so that might look like maybe getting a name that fits what we're actually going to be doing.
Also, galvanizing students and professionals that maybe do this work but are not recognized, they don't recognize that there's a body out there that exists. And just getting some energy behind this so that we can become actually a recognized division within ACA.
And then start working with different organizations, whether it be the high profile athletic organizations, NBA, but also colleges and stuff like that. So it looks a variety of different ways. And then eventually, definitely wanting to create some a certification for counselors that are doing this work, just so we have a formalized framework that vets professionals, and so that we can make sure that there's a certain quality that exists amongst sports counselors.
Any other things that you think we should know, the general public or those that are interested in sports psych, in our five minutes that are left?
First and foremost, I want to make sure that those who are planning to do this work, or any students that are listening, to make sure that they network and make sure that they meet different people that can guide them. Definitely reach out to me if you are wanting to figure out different ways to break into the sports world. I definitely want those counselors that are doing this work that are maybe not as affiliated or not as active within ACA to definitely come the conference in Toronto this year and future conferences and start to build a coalition that is working, a sports counseling coalition.
And I want the interest network that we're building and hopefully this division that we're building to start to collaborate with different organizations like the NCAA, the NBA, and even those professionals that are doing research. I want them to get involved.
And then I think universities, get used to counselors that are wanting to work with athletes. Get used to them and get ready for them to come to your universities and maybe create programming for them, because, yeah, this is something that is burgeoning right now. And I think counselors are very well equipped to work with this population, and we definitely need them.
Are there any resources that you want to share that you think are good primers for people who are newly interested or just starting out?
Yeah, I'd definitely say look at the NCAA and their latest research that they have on mental health within their student athletes. There's a lot of different organizations, obviously, the Applied Sports Psychology Organization, CCSPA, the Clinical Counseling and Sports Psychology Organization, and then also just there's different smaller organizations like The Hidden Opponent. They do a lot of stuff with athletes and things, and these different organizations. And also look into professionals that are already doing this work.
I'm just so excited about it and glad that I was able to connect with you at Ask Conference and get you to do this podcast and helping with the relaunch. Know that I'm also passionate about it because I see the need out there. I see the niche that we could really, really have, and that it's definitely a need for our Black athletes, our marginalized athletes, LGBTQ+. And if we could have people who are well versed in counseling as well as sports, I think it's a win-win all around.
Thank you so much for joining us today and giving us your thoughts and really showing us your passion. Because I'm fired up. I can't wait for Toronto and in the future of the interest group for counseling sports people.
Absolutely. I'm super thankful to you as president to put some energy behind this, and super thankful to our new CEO who's been very supportive. And then also, if anyone has any questions or anything about this work or trying to break into this, you can definitely reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's my email. If you have any questions or anything, I'll be happy to talk, or just network in general and guide folks.
Thank you so much. Oh my goodness, you've been amazing. Thank you so much. And just congratulations, and sending you good vibes on your future endeavors.
Thank you again as our great ACA president.
Of course. Of course. Thank you.
Giscard and Dr. Frazier, thank you so much for joining us to discuss sports counseling. Be sure to subscribe to the Voice of Counseling on Apple and Google Podcasts, and you can follow ACA on social media. To join the ACA and get exclusive access to all the member benefits, check out counseling.org.
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