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What is Performance Psychology?

In our society, many people look up to professional and amateur athletes alike. They are admired for their outstanding physical abilities and are amazed at how they can get the most out of the human body. Many also revere professionals who have excellent psychomotor skills and are able to perform well under great pressure, such as surgeons, firefighters, police, military personnel, performing artists, and more.

However, many people do not know that many of these people were not born with all of the physical ability and mental toughness they show later in life. There is much preparation that goes into performing at a high level, and success usually depends on physical and mental toughness.

If you are curious about how people whose livelihoods hinge upon mental toughness and the ability to do well in high-pressure situations, you may be interested to learn more about performance psychology. (APA.org)

A career in performance psychology usually requires a Ph.D. in this field. Below is more information about what performance psychology is, how to become a performance psychologist, job demand, and other information important to the field.

Performance Psychology Overview

Performance psychology is a subdivision of the field that looks at the factors that influence optimal performance of people in various applications. Performance psychology focuses on areas such as sports,  business, and creative endeavors. The basic principles of performance psychology are used to help professionals get to the top of their game, produce the best results under the pressure of competition of various types. (Larrygmaguire.com)

By assisting professionals to hone their current skills and develop new ones, performance psychology offers new possibilities for enhancing human performance. Interventions such as psychological skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy help to develop in the professional the mental states that can boost optimal performance and give them the cognitive skills to thrive under difficult scenarios.

How Does Performance Psychology Help the Patient?

A performance psychologist can help a variety of professional athletes and others to improve their performance if they become anxious or lose focus during competition. Some of the things that a performance psychologist can do to help professionals in may fields include: (APA.org)

  • Boost performance: Many mental strategies, such as self-talk, visualization, and relaxation techniques can help athletes and other professionals overcome obstacles to achieve objectives. These strategies can be just as useful in a high-pressure business presentation as in an athletic event.
  • Deal with the pressures of competition: Performance psychologists can help athletes and others to deal with pressure from coaches, parents, supervisors, clients. Etc.
  • Recover from injuries: After an injury, an athlete may need help in dealing with pain, adhere to their physical therapy, or adjust to not being able to perform for a certain length of time.
  • Keep an exercise program: People who want to exercise on a regular basis for physical and mental fitness may have trouble doing so. A performance psychologist can help the person to boost their motivation and deal with related concerns.

What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?

To work as a performance psychologist in private practice, you need to earn your Ph.D. Every admissions office has different standards for its applicants, but most Ph.D. programs in performance psychology require the following:

  • College transcripts: Official transcripts from all previous college work, such as bachelor’s and other master’s degrees.
  • Standardized test scores: Most Ph.D. in performance psychology programs require you to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Others may not require test scores, or offer waivers to students with a high GPA and/or significant related work experience.
  • Letters of recommendation: Performance psychology programs are highly competitive and you need to have excellent recommendations. Some require recommendations from both professors and employers.
  • Prerequisites: If you have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, you should have the course requirements to apply for a Ph.D. program. If your bachelor’s or master’s are in other specialties, you may need to take some background courses before you can be accepted into a doctoral program in performance psychology
  • Personal essay: How well you write is a critical factor when you apply for a Ph.D. in performance psychology program.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

To work as a licensed psychologist in any field, you are required to have a license in the United States. While requirements vary by state, the typical requirements are at least a master’s degree in psychology and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice. However, to work in private practice as a performance or sports psychologist, you will need your Ph.D.

After you have completed these requirements, you need to pass your state examination to practice as a performance psychologist. To have the best job opportunities in performance psychology, you should have courses in kinesiology, physiology, sports medicine, business, and marketing. (APA.org)

Is The Job Outlook for Performance Psychologists Good?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that jobs for all psychologists will increase by 14% by 2028, which is much faster than average. It is expected that employment for psychometric, clinical, and counseling psychologists will increase as the demand is growing for psychologists in all parts of the US. For example, psychologists are more often needed in hospitals, schools, and mental health centers because people want help with their mental health problems. (BLS.gov)

Also, more psychologists are required to offer mental health services to the older US population, and we can expect more psychologists will be needed to understand and treat major psychological disorders. These include depression, memory loss, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. These psychologists’ knowledge in various types of psychological testing will be needed for students in schools as it is necessary for potential mental health and behavior problems to be identified as early as possible.

In the area of performance psychology, it is better recognized today that being on top of the game mentally is critical to achieving the best performance, whether it is in sports, business or the arts. Many professionals hire private practice performance psychologists to help them to reach their potential in their given field.

Further Resources for Candidates in Performance Psychology

If a career in performance psychology interests you, below are some useful resources to explore further:

Now that you better understand what performance psychology is and what you can do, you just need to figure out which doctoral program is best for your needs and budget.

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