Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert J. Reese


Exercise has been shown to improve mood, anxiety, stress, and promote neuroplasticity (Conn, 2010; Donaghy, 2007; Josefsson, Lindwall, & Archer, 2014; Silveria et al., 2013; Stathopoulou et al., 2006). However, limited research on the topic suggests that many psychologists and mental health providers are not incorporating exercise into psychological treatment, and many lack the confidence to do so (Burton, Pakenham, & Brown, 2010; Weir, 2011). The purpose of this study was to evaluate current exercise prescription trends among practicing psychologists and trainees, including identifying their current beliefs, attitudes, training, and the perceived barriers hindering psychotherapists from recommending and prescribing exercise.

Psychologists and trainees (N = 146), completed the Exercise in Mental Illness Questionnaire – Health Practitioner Version (EMIQ-HP). Results revealed: a) 40.4% (n = 59) of psychotherapists prescribed exercise only occasionally and recommended clients exercise “most days of the week,” at moderate intensity; b) older psychotherapists’ (t[163] = -2.15, p = .038) and trainees further along in training (t[163] = 2.26, p = .029)were both more likely to prescribe exercise (F[9, 36] = 9.27, p = .011, R2= .42); c) exercise habits of respondents were not significant predictors of exercise prescription; d) a small number of respondents (22.6%; n = 33) reported previous formal training in exercise prescription; and formal training (β = .39, p < .001) was positively correlated with exercise prescription [F(1, 144) = 26.99, p < .001, R2= .16]; and e) therapist barriers (β = -.39, p < .001; e.g., “Prescribing exercise to people with a mental illness is not part of my job…I do not know how to prescribe exercise to people with a mental illness…I don’t believe exercise will help people with a mental illness,” etc.) were inversely related with exercise prescription, F[2, 145] = 27.03, p < .001; R2= .27.

In conclusion, psychotherapists’ age, year in graduate school (for trainees; n = 55), and formal training in exercise prescription were significant predictors of exercise prescription, while higher perceived therapist barriers to exercise prescription hinder prescription practices. Study findings, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)