A Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) is someone who has specialized education and hands-on training working with athletes, performers, or people who are constantly exposed to high-pressure situations. CMPCs often call themselves Mental Skills Trainers, Performance Coaches, or other similar names. When it comes to the esports industry, in the recent years, without established guidelines or experience with alternative solutions, many new (and even some seasoned) semi and pro teams have taken to traditional psychologists to help their players address the mental challenges that come from high pressure situations. In conversations with administrators and coaches, we’ve come to learn that due to their admittedly limited knowledge, the only role they have been aware of that would fit their organization’s needs in this area is that of a psychologist. It’s what’s been tossed around in esports management circles and has thus become the norm for many. However, once we educate them (and now you), they learn that a CMPC offers a diverse range of specialty skills that are more niche-targeted and specific to gamers, and are really the way to go.
CMPCs have strict guidelines for certification. Their degrees are typically, at a minimum, a Masters in Sport Psychology. Additionally, they must have a total of 400 hours of hands-on training, supervised by a mentor. These hours are completed with either individuals or teams in a performance setting. This includes observation time of the individual and team, session preparation, meeting with their mentor to discuss challenges, and even peer meetings to share tools and resources. 200 of those hours must be in direct client contact, and at least 100 of those hours must be in what is defined as “traditional sports.”
Compared to a Psychologist
In order to call oneself a psychologist, one must possess a Ph.D. in Psychology and have gone through hands-on training and mentorship. While a psychologist can potentially benefit an esports team, their training is more on general mental health and well-being. A psychologist helps people deal with the general issues that come up in life or work, typically stemming from past trauma. They do not have the in-depth training in performance enhancement that a CMPC has.
A CMPC is trained on the very nuances of mental skills. They are experienced with things like blocking out distractions during a high-stakes tournament, dealing with the pressure at the end of a match or game, learning how to apply specific principles to come out ahead, improving confidence during a match, and much more. They are also experts in helping to build a cohesive and winning team. These are all things a general psychologist cannot offer.
In general, certified mental performance consultants tend to be more affordable than licensed psychologists, although it’s important to again note that certified mental performance consultants and licensed psychologists often offer different types of services. While both professionals may work with clients to improve mental performance, CMPCs typically focus specifically on sports psychology and performance, while licensed psychologists may provide a broader range of mental health services, such as therapy for anxiety or depression.
Dynamic Improvers of Performance
Another major difference between CMPC and psychologists is the way work is conducted. Psychologists typically schedule one-hour counseling sessions where the client visits them in an office and discusses internal issues they are facing with. CMPCs offer a more dynamic type of service. While the option is often there for the client to visit the CMPC in an office and conduct a typical counseling session, a CMPC meets the client wherever they are. This can be on the field, in the locker room, at a tournament, or even virtually. Meetings can be with individuals, the entire team, or both. Additionally, sessions are rarely just a sit-and-talk-together type of arrangement. The CMPC brings a plethora of tools with them to the session, including industry-specific worksheets and assessments. These both help teach mental skills, and keep the athlete or gamer engaged throughout the session. Not only that, but a CMPC will often integrate their own in-game observation of the client. This can be either through recordings or attending live events or scrims and observing in real-time.
The net result of this work over an extended period of time is that it creates a snowball effect that compounds results. For example, a CMPC might have their client complete a Performance Profile Assessment. This will have them compile the traits of top performers in their field and then numerically rank themselves on where they currently reside with those traits. After that, the CMPC will work on goal setting with the client. They will teach them the different types of goals and how to set effective goals to address the areas from the performance profile they want to focus on. From there, it’s time to start tackling each goal. Improving confidence is one potential goal. The CMPC could show sources of confidence and then give tools on how to start improving confidence.
Psychologist Versus CMPC – Or Is It?
When it comes to choosing either a general psychologist or a CMPC, the facts are that while a team would benefit from both, a CMPC is much more important. The CMPC focuses on mental skills that relate directly to performance and competition, which is what teams are primarily looking for. If a CMPC suspects that a client would benefit from a psychologist, they are ethically obligated to refer out to one. This would be done for issues outside of their scope, as CMPC’s are not able to diagnose or treat mental illnesses (or prescribe medication). Having one on staff is typically not necessary, with the only benefit possibly being that it could streamline the referral process. On the other hand, if a psychologist sees that a player is presenting issues related to their performance, they can refer them to a mental skills trainer.
The Bottom Line
When faced with the choice of choosing a Certified Mental Skills Coach or a psychologist, an esports team that is serious about competing at a high level would be more apt to go with the CMPC. Their expertise and training make them a perfect fit for giving measurable, lasting results that improve player performance. They can do more than just hold counseling sessions. A CMPC can meet the player where they are, use handouts and assessments, and observe gameplay – both recorded and live. Finally, CMPC typically charges much less for their services. To give esports teams the results they are looking for, it’s a much better option.