Dr Victor Thompson racing at the
ITU Triathlon Grand Final 2012 Auckland
Sports Psychology Expertise
I have worked to help athletes of all ages and all levels in sport for over 10 years. My aim is to help people get more from sport - in terms of performance and enjoyment (or less misery and distress). This primarily focuses on helping sportspeople to address:
Nerves, stress or anxiety
Frustrations and anger
Bouncing-back from setbacks
My skills and training in Clinical Psychology allows me to address deeper or more complex difficulties, if required, in people who play sport or who exercise. Examples of these include:
Significant low-mood or depression
Obsessions or compulsions
Over-exercising or exercise addiction
Body image obsession or distortions
Coping with injuries
Read more on my problems helped page
Dr Victor Thompson racing at the
ITU Triathlon Grand Final 2013 London
Sports Psychologist and competitor
I have raced triathlons since 1996 (that's me racing on this page). This has included racing in 4 European and 5 World Championships. This means that I know about training and competing, the stresses and strains, what can help and what can hinder performance.
Psychology Qualifications & Professional Membership
- BSc Psychology (Hons)
- Diploma Sports Psychology
- Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
- Postgraduate Diploma in CBT
- Member British Psychological Society (BPS)
- Chartered Psychologist (BPS)
- Registered Supervisor (BPS)
- Registered Psychologist (HCPC)
- Member BABCP
- Accredited CBT Therapist (BABCP)
My journey into a career in Sports Psychology
Working as a psychologist with athletes and sportspeople is an interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. Years ago, when I was an active young person and athlete, sport, health and fitness were the areas I was most interested in. This was back in the 1990s, when there were fewer options for a career in sport – beyond the main choices of being a coach, manager or physiotherapist. With some exposure to studying psychology prior to University, I chose to study psychology at Uni. This was mainly because it was an intriguing subject and if I was going to spend three years at University, I needed to do something that was interesting enough for me to see it through. Thankfully, that worked out. The psychology degree, with extra modules in criminology, biology and pharmacology, was a good learning experience.
After this, I was hoping to carve out a career – or even just a paid job – that involved psychology, health, with active people or sportspeople. There were few Sports Psychologists out there and the path to becoming one was not that clear. When I sought advice, I was told that you either do a PhD in a related area (e.g. concentration, motivation) and you might be ‘found’ by the likes of a football club, so becoming a Sports Psychologist. Or, there was the “write a book” route, when again, you might be lucky-enough to be ‘found’ by a sports club. These two routes seemed a little too chance for me – after a fair amount of time and hard work!
And so, I set off on what would become a three-year journey of working as an Assistant Psychologist and Research Assistant within NHS Health Psychology and Clinical Psychology settings. I worked across adult mental health settings, a drugs and alcohol service, a HIV and sexual health service, an obesity service, with children with significant behavioural problems, plus research and development. Around this, I managed to squeeze in a Diploma in Sports Psychology, which gave me a good formal foundation in Sports Psychology.
On the sports side, I really got into triathlons. I enjoyed the variety that triathlons gave – mixing swimming, cycling and running during the week. I did not have any formal experience in any of these sports – unless you count the BMX riding on the streets, ramps and local track in my youth? After my BMXing, I spent a few years going to gyms, lifting weights. So triathlon was a very different sport and challenge. In enjoyed the training, getting out into the countryside and then testing myself in races. I even ended-up winning a silver medal that the National Age-Group Triathlon Sprint Championships.
Then, I set off for London, to embark on the three-year Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at UCL in London. During the course, in the academic terms, we spend one or two days per week at University, learning about a wide-range of psychological conditions and treatments. On the other three days, we are on placement in an NHS setting. There are four core areas of experience: child, adult, older adult and learning disability. We do a six-month placement in each area. Then, for the third year, we can choose our clinical placement(s). I chose a six-month placement in physical health psychology based in a large London hospital. With my final placement in primary care, based in GP practice settings. When outside the academic terms, we are on placement Monday to Friday. In addition, there are case reports, essays and a PhD level of research to do (but thankfully considerably shorter). The training course is demanding – academically and personally. On completion, we are trained to work with all ages, with a variety of mental health problems and psychological difficulties, using a variety of treatment approaches.
After which, I took a break and went on a round the world trip!
On my return, I started working part-time in a primary care setting, working in GP surgeries with patients with common mental health problems. These include anxiety disorders such as panic, agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia, health anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder; low-mood and depression, trauma, bereavements… This has given me experience of working with a wide variety of people with common psychological challenges.
Meanwhile, I set about improving my knowledge-base and skills in sports psychology. After what was mostly self-directed study, I started offering Sports Psychology consultations. My plan was to work with sportspeople who wanted to improve their performance, taking it to the next level. I also wanted to help athletes to overcome a setback, so they could get back to the level they were at (or higher!). There was also a third area, to help sportspeople eradicate Clinical Psychology-related areas of difficulty – such as eating disorders, problems with body image, obsessions, depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties…
A little later, after a series of requests from parents or professionals to help children with psychological barriers to performance or where sport was impacting on other areas of their life, such as their mood or functioning, I created specific information around Sports Psychology for Children. While I did not set out to develop a specific offer for children, I empathised with the dilemma that parents had – 1) that it is difficult to find someone in Sport Psychology who is willing and able to work with children, and 2) that it can be difficult for parents to watch their child get so distressed by sport, when they are unable to prevent such distress, upset, anger… And so, this evolved into a bespoke Sports Psychology for Children website. The idea behind this was to help explain to parents and children, what Sports Psychology for children is, how there can be help, and what my approach is.
Today, I combine some time in the NHS as a Clinical Psychologist, working with adults with common psychological problems, with my time as a Sports Psychologist – helping a wide-range of athletes, of various ages, across many sports, at every level, with a variety of issues, to get more from sport and life. Due to my training, skills and experience in Clinical Psychology, I use the title Clinical Sports Psychologist.
Tips for becoming a Sports Psychologist
If you are thinking about a career in Sports Psychology, I wish you all the best. It is a great career. Just like sport itself, the applied discipline Sport Psychology is highly competitive to get into and establish yourself. But then when you succeed in what you set out to do, that can be great.
Here are my top picks of the best websites with information on becoming a Sports Psychologist:
Due to nature of my work, I do not offer opportunities for shadowing, experience, placements or supervised experience. My consultations are confidential and providing a comfortable consultation environment is important. What is best for my clients, is what I do. If you are looking for these types of opportunities, then I suggest that you look elsewhere. If you aren’t quite at that stage, then check out the sites above.
If you want help with a student project on Sports Psychology
I receive many requests to help with student projects. Over the years, I have helped with many of these. At the moment, I am not offering help with student projects.
I trust that you have found my journey into Clinical Sports Psychology to be an interesting one – it certainly has been for me. If you are pursing a similar career, then I wish you the best of luck.