This study examined how practitioners who provide sport psychology support use counseling principles and skills to develop practitioner-athlete relationships. Semistructured interviews were conducted with thirteen competent practitioners (Mean age = 41.2 ± 10.9 years old, five men, eight women). Thematic analysis revealed that the participants used a range of counseling principles to develop practitioner-athlete relationships including: the facilitative conditions, self-disclosure, counseling skills, the formation of working alliances, and awareness of the unreal relationship. The participants also described using noncounseling strategies (e.g., gaining an understanding of the athlete’s sporting environment) to build relationships with their athletes. There was considerable variation between the participants both in the training that they had received in counseling principles and skills, and how they applied them. It was concluded that counseling principles and skills play a significant role in the development of practitioner-athlete relationships.
Longstaff is with the London Sport Institute, Middlesex University, London, UK. Gervis is with the Dept. of Sport, Health & Exercise Sciences, Brunel University, London, UK.