The Consulting Process

Many people aren’t aware of what working with a sport or performance psychologist entails. That’t not necessarily their fault, it’s just not really something that is common knowledge outside of the field. Because of this unknown territory, a lot of people are hesitant to seek that same support that could ultimately help them to become better athletes and people.

So to give a broad insight into what the consulting process looks like, take a read below to understand, step-by-step, just what working with a sport psychologist could like like.


The intake session is the first step of the consulting process and involves an initial session where the performance psychologist and client first meet. In this session the client often discloses their reason for seeking support. It may be that they were referred to the psychologist by their coach or management or they have willingly got in touch on their own behalf. Often, content discussed in this session includes: the clients’ background, their current challenges and their goals. The intake session gives the psychologist a better idea of what the client is looking for, what they expectations are if they are able to support the client. Similarly, this session allows the client to get to know the practitioner and make an informed decision about whether they wish to pursue a working relationship with them or not.

Needs Analysis

The psychologist takes the time to understand the clients needs. This information can be gathered using various methods. For example, observations where the psychologist watches the client in their performance environment. Talking in an interview style where the client discloses information. Psychometric testing, where questionnaires and surveys may be administered to the client. All of these methods of gathering data contribute to a cache of knowledge that the psychologist needs in order to put the pieces together and suggest an appropriate intervention. Information that might be identified at this stage could pertain to the clients’ behaviours, thoughts, emotions, relationships with others, relationship with their environment, their barriers to high performance and current mental strategies they may already use.

Case Formulation

Once the psychologist feels they have substantial information, knowledge and understanding of the clients experiences, it is then their task to put this information together in a sort of profile that depicts the clients’ experiences and what they are struggling with or trying to achieve. Similar to a criminal investigation where a case is created that holds all of the evidence, information from interviews and observations and everything else they know about the case. This client case, is used as a foundation to choose, plan and deliver an intervention. Much like the FBI using their criminal case to decide on a plan of apprehending the criminals.

Choosing an Intervention

An intervention is the plan of action that both the client and the psychologist believe to be the best plan for supporting the client to overcome their challenges. Choosing an intervention is based on the information gathered during the needs analysis and informed using the case formulation. For example a client who is struggling with motivation may benefit from an intervention that involves goal setting and practicing motivational self-talk. However, this decision must be made based on the clients’ personal information, personality, learning style, history and available resources.

Planning the Intervention

Once a suitable intervention has been selected, planning is the next step. Planning the intervention, for example goal setting, can include the psychologist educating the client on the topic first before discussing how it will be executed. Planning involves understanding when, where, what and how the client will execute the intervention, as well as how the efficacy of the intervention will be measured.

Delivery and monitoring

This is a collaborative effort that involves a deep level of reflection on the clients’ part to understand themselves, what is working well with the intervention and what could be improved. Delivery and monitoring can be seen as a process of refinement whereby, the client and psychologist consistently evaluate the success of the intervention and the impact it’s having on the client. Through this process, the intervention can be modified to highlight an improved strategy, or scrapped altogether if it has no impact on the client. In the latter case, further discussions would occur to understand why the intervention wasn’t successful and what can be done next to produce a better outcome.

Written by: Natasha Bains

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