I have not got any problems, so what can Performance Psychology do for me?
Using Psychology when there is nothing wrong but maybe there is still work to do.
Dr Mark Bellamy PhD Cpsychol AFBPsS
When you are injured it is likely you go and see a physiotherapist, similarly when you feel you need to be watched over a bit more closely with your training or perhaps need to get some structure and quality in your training perhaps you work with a trainer for a while. You may wish to optimise your diet for an event or major life occurrence so a visit to a dietician or taking nutritional advice may be smart. But the question arises often with practitioners as well as with clients why should I go and see a Performance or Sport Psychologist? There is nothing wrong with me.
This is a question that is worth a little consideration, of course I see people when they have made a decision to make an appointment with me and then we work with what is in front of us. However I think it is worth laying out what may happen in a session and perhaps that will help you make up your own mind whether you think it may be valuable to do some work in this area.
On reflection whilst the facts and information that arrives within the sessions will vary considerably as we are seeing individuals with their own individual thoughts and stories, the format within sessions with Performance Psychology work is actually very clear.
What will essentially happen is an audit of what you are trying to do and how you are going about it, are things working for you? Are there major areas (or minor areas) which are not working but are making other things harder for you than it needs to be and quite simply what strategies are you taking forwards in life that may or not be optimally useful for you and are possibly holding you back.
At the end of one or two sessions we will have a really clear assessment of what is going on, how you are approaching things and how that is mapping onto what you wish to make happen in your life (sporting or otherwise).
At that point if we have completed our assessment properly and this is really a very two way process, me asking lots of questions and you telling me about yourself and deciding whether or not you agree with the inferences and conclusions I am drawing we end up with a good overview of how you are approaching life, what skills you have and what resources to draw on. We also get a view of what red flags there are that may make things harder for you, and we also get to perhaps see which habits you are still using that may have been useful to you at some point in your life, but are now less useful to you and may even be holding you back.
We would then ‘map’ this assessment or picture of how we wish to move forward and by seeing what we have in place to support you we can see what route or plan is going to give you the best chances of getting to where you wish in life.
At this point, this may be enough, if we have done this phase of work well, then what you do next should be fairly clear and you may go and work on your own for some time. You may of course have come to see me for a specific problem or preparation for an event and now the job is to get out there and do it. It may of course be the case that you need a little help in getting there or changing some of these habits, or even working through some of the sticking points that are making life hard for you. In these cases we would put a plan together for how you would approach these challenges, then create an approach where you can go and test some interventions and then we together monitor how these changes are impacting on your life, sporting or otherwise.
Often the role at this point becomes to work with you as a coach over a period of time, a lot of the time we are looking at how you can be as good as you want, or to get over sticking points in life that are making things difficult. Remember we are often looking at which habits are working for you and which are not and the coaching may be about working to make those habits support what you need now in life as you may be a very different person to when some of those habits were first formed and needed. You may be holding onto and still using old habits that are no longer of any use to you and indeed may be impacting on your ability to get or create when you want in life. These habits may be habits of thought or action, but both rely on the pathways that are formed in the brain. Changing or replacing habits can be done, but takes a little time and also needs appropriate pressure testing to ensure that you are creating a habit that will pop into your mind or action when you are under stress.
Within this work there are often a combination of lifestyle and sporting or performance factors that of course interrelate and again we would be looking at all of this within our assessment and seeing how we make this work for you. Although there really is not a typical day working with clients, (which is perhaps one of the reasons that it is so interesting and enjoyable) things that often crop up are around injury management and prevention, and working closely with coaching and medical teams in this area.
Within a performance arena we have a number of areas that may come up for further work; while this list is in no way inclusive, it does give an idea of the type of areas we may find ourselves working in:
- Competition and season planning and preparation.
- Pre competition preparation and dealing with specifics such as competition approach and dealing with anxiety.
- Optimising performance and preparing for peak performance.
- Development of useful traits and approaches for the high performance arena.
- Health Psychology; dealing with stress, sleep issues, relationship issues, managing work…
- Anxiety stress and overload, workload and technique for dealing and managing this.
- Adherence to exercise or training and ensuring that training or exercise is linked to performance and desired outcomes.
- Recovery strategies such as mindfulness, time out, relaxation.
- Energy management.
- Working with useful or less than useful habits.
- Injury recovery, injury rehabilitation support and injury avoidance.
Until we have met and done some work together, I at least do not know which direction the work will take, however often we see the best results do not come from dealing with a perceived problem head on, but rather comes from a good understanding and assessment of ‘where we are? what is going on? And why we have got to where we are?’ once we have this in place the solution will often fall out for us and seem very simple.
Of course sometimes I am also asked to work with clients where there are major clinical issues, in all cases my work has the safety and health of my clients as a priority, and in cases where we are getting into clinical issues around mental health I will work with you to find the best solution as my training does not involve clinical psychology. I do have clinical Psychologists who I can refer to, but if your home is outside of my geographical area, I will work to support you in finding the most appropriate clinician for your needs.
I hope that this short article, gives you some idea of what you may expect from work with a performance psychologist and why you may wish to do some of this work. However if you do have any further questions, please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org with contact details and I will try to spend a little time speaking over the phone or via e-mail with you.