What is Performance Psychology?

performance-psychologyOver the past half century, the branch of performance psychology has grown dramatically to focus on studying the human factors that enable individuals, teams, and groups to reach their goals for achieving success. Although it is often stereotypically associated with high-end performance in the arena of professional sports, the discipline studies human traits that can be applied to performance in business, performing arts, fitness, the military, or any other domain with a performance component. In fact, many performance psychologists conduct their work with the goal of facilitating peak performance guidelines into best practice through even the most mundane elements of our daily lives and interpersonal relationships too.

What Performance Psychologists Do

Performance psychologists are given the responsibility of helping individuals or groups of people identify the positive mindset for developing, enhancing, and maintaining optimal human performance in a variety of applications. Whether working with athletes, singers, dancers, actors, business owners, soldiers, leaders, doctors, or just average joes, performance psychologists will draw on psychological principles on the human mind to develop the mental skills that are needed to become better at what they already excel at. In most cases, performance psychologists will conduct research studies on attitude, motivation, personality, teamwork, leadership, visualization, self-programming, concentration, training, and other related domains to develop a toolkit that can be utilized to obtain peak performance. Performance psychologists have the mission of broadening clients’ skills and training them with more healthy habits to perform consistently at high levels in pressure situations.

Different Career Options in Performance Psychology

Through their expertise in goal-setting and mental training for improved performance, these psychologists can find a wide variety of career options available in helping people work towards becoming the highest possible versions of themselves. As with in other branches, performance psychologists are often employed in academia as university or college professors to teach courses in the field as well as conduct research studies on peak performance. However, those who take a practitioner approach are more likely to be found providing training insights in private practices, corporations, professional athletic teams, schools, community clinics, performing arts organizations, fitness centers, and even certain hospital departments.

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How to Become a Performance Psychologist

Master’s degree programs are available to prepare students for careers in coaching or consulting work, but they will not fulfill the qualifications for becoming a psychologist. In most cases, performance psychologists earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree from an accredited graduate school to provide an adequate academic foundation for specializing their career in this discipline. While there are an increased number of programs available specifically in performance or sports psychology, many aspiring performance psychologists are trained in counseling, clinical, cognitive-behavioral, industrial/organizational, or community psychology before choosing their concentration area in performance. Students who are enrolled in APA-accredited doctoral degree programs will be required to complete a year-long internship, which should be completed in a setting related to performance.

As the difference between success and failure grows larger in our society, many individuals in sports, business, performing arts, and other high performance domains are increasingly seeking out psychologists with the skills to help them become better tomorrow than they are today. Therefore, performance psychology is a developing discipline that strives to meet this demand by producing scientifically proven strategies for building stronger mental health and facilitating peak performance among top achievers in all arenas.

See also: Ultimate Online Guide to Becoming a Sports Psychologist