Should I Study Athletic Counseling or Sport and Exercise Psychology? | Springfield College

Should I Study Athletic Counseling or Sport and Exercise Psychology?

Athletic counseling and sport and exercise psychology may seem like similar programs, but they have defined differences that will impact a student’s course of study, how they work in the field, and how they interact with athletes from all levels and backgrounds. The primary focus of the Sport and Exercise Psychology program is performance enhancement, which involves identifying and applying psychological principles that facilitate peak sport performance and enhancing people’s participation in physical activities. The Athletic Counseling program takes a holistic approach to the field, training graduate students to provide services that address the personal, performance, academic, social, and career challenges that athletes face. Athletic Counseling focuses on the whole person, which includes but is not limited to sport performance. A comparison of each program’s curriculum can be found below.

What is athletic counseling?

Grounded in psychology, this field combines training in applied and research areas of sport counseling. Individuals with an athletic counseling background serve in a holistic role for athletes. They recognize that the complexity of sport and athlete lives must be mirrored by complex approaches to service delivery, addressing athletes’ personal, performance, social, and mental health in a variety of settings.

Athletic counseling graduates work with teams and athletes at the youth, intercollegiate (junior college, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, NCAA student-athletes), and professional levels, coach, counsel, serve as master resilience trainers/performance enhancement specialists in the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) program, continue on to doctoral study, and more.

At Springfield College, students can earn a Master of Science or Master of Education in psychology with a concentration in athletic counseling and also complete the academic and supervised applied (fieldwork) requirements to become Certified Mental Performance Consultants (CMPC) through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Students may choose to complete an additional year of coursework to also meet the academic requirements to become licensed mental health counselors (LMHC).

What is sport and exercise psychology?

Those with a degree in sport and exercise psychology work with athletes and physically active individuals to enhance performance using the sport sciences. With increased pressure to operate at peak performance, the field of sport and exercise psychology has become an integral part of implementing theory and research into improving performance and ability. Graduates are well versed in the areas of motor learning and control, exercise physiology, sport sociology, and philosophy of sport. Those in the sport and performance psychology field work with athletes at the professional, collegiate, club, and high school levels, as well as serve as coaches in performance enhancement facilities.

At Springfield College, students can earn a Master's degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in sport and exercise psychology. Students in both programs can choose to complete the academic requirements to become Certified Mental Performance Consultants (CMPC) through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.

Program faculty members include Jasmin Hutchinson, Kathleen Mellano, and Elizabeth Mullin.

Comparison of Curricular Requirements for Athletic Counseling and Sport and Exercise Psychology programs

Athletic Counseling (MEd or MS)*  Sport and Exercise Psychology (MEd or MS)*
Minimum of 48 credits to complete degreeMinimum of 36 credits to complete degree
Core Requirement (3cr)Core Requirement (3cr)
RSCH 610 - Foundations and Methods of Research RSCH 610 - Foundations and Methods of Research 
Program/Concentration Requirements: (22-31 credits)Program and Research requirements: (24 credits)
PSYC 654 - Issues and Techniques in Counseling Athletes  (3cr)AEXS 678 - Sport Psychology (3cr)
PSYC 657 - Professional Studies in Athletic Counseling (3cr)AEXS 676 – Exercise Psychology (3cr)
PSYC 672 - Laboratory in Counseling Athletes (3cr)AEXS 679 - Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology (3cr)

PSYC 674 - Counseling for Enhanced Performance (3cr)

AEXS 610 - Advanced Exercise Physiology (3cr)

PSYC 686 - Fieldwork/Internship and Seminar (minimum 7 credits)

AEXS 685 - Measurement in Sport and Exercise Psychology

AEXS 677 - Stress Management  or

PSYC 545 - Imagery, Hypnosis, and Self-

Hypnosis   or

PSYC 630 - Adventure Therapy: Facilitating Life

Skills through Experiential Learning  (3cr)

MOST 624 - Motor Learning and Control  or

PHED 635 - Motor Development and Analysis (3cr)

COUN 613 Professional Orientation & Ethical Practice in Counseling (3cr)

or PHED 658 - Sport in Society (3cr)


COUN 614 Counseling Diverse Populations (3cr) 

COUN 622 Counseling Theories (3cr)

COUN 629 Counseling Skill Development (3cr) 
COUN 634 Human Development Across the Lifespan (3cr) 
Plus electives (to meet a minimum of 48 credits)Plus electives (to meet a minimum of 36 credits)
*Additional Requirements for the MS (thesis) degree option are a statistics course for three semester hours of credit and six semester hours of credit for RSCH 612: Proposal Design and RSCH 635: Thesis.*Additional Requirements for the MS (thesis) degree option are RSCH 620: Educational and Psychological Statistics (3 credits), RSCH 612: Proposal Design (2 credits) and RSCH 635: Thesis (4 credits).