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Posted 02/27/2021 in Category 1

What do student athletes want from their psychologists?

What do student athletes want from their psychologists?

Student athletes form a significant portion of the athletes that play and compete in sport worldwide. The four plus years of study and participation in sport means a significant proportion of athletes begin their long-term careers at university. But while they are at university, do they receive the support they need for a long and healthy career in sport? Do they prevent themselves from gaining the support they need because of the barriers and personal preferences they hold?

From Lopez and colleagues study we learned much about athletic departments and the services of sport psychologists, counsellors and counselling psychologists. The drive to serve must come from the athletic department to support issues of mental health and well-being. We can overcome the stigma attached to seeking support through education and awareness at all times because each year brings a new cohort to support. We have come along way in the past 20 years but there is time and effort necessary to stretch and cover the needs of student athletes over the next decade and beyond.

One high hurdle is the perception of others, especially team mates for seeking help. One way to overcome this stigma is for all new athletes to receive at least one intake session per year as part of their athletic development. In this way, we expose all athletes to the services of the sport psychologist and the choice remains with the athlete thereafter. We can protect a student’s privacy and confidentiality with anonymous attendance, and currently online sessions are available to facilitate any barriers to access. 

The next challenge is the limits, and boundaries set by the psychologist and athlete. These boundaries allow for a trusting relationship to develop so that what the athlete shares, the sport psychologist does not disclose to other members of the medical team unless the athlete gives permission. The barriers now remain similar to the barriers of the past and in different sectors of the community. What athletes and student athletes need is for a private, consistent and confidential service to be accessible to one’s boundaries being traversed for any reason other than the health and well-being of the person or others.

The support that we receive from a sport psychologist can improve our performances in sport and exercise settings, but we can improve our psychological health and well-being. When we circumvent these services that are available to us to protect ourselves from stigma, we are losing twice. We are losing out on the opportunity to get to know ourselves and learn better ways of coping. We are also losing out on setting a good example to others to take care of themselves in the short term and the long term. It’s a brave move to look after yourself and it’s an even braver more to look after yourself and let others know you value yourself enough to support your mental health. It’s the little steps along the road to good health that we stop taking which influence us the most. We can all help each other by recognising that helping ourselves is helping others. 


López, R., & Levy, J. (2013). Student Athletes’ Perceived Barriers to and Preferences for Seeking Counseling. Journal of College Counseling, 16(1), 19–31. doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2013.00024.x

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