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What do sports psychologists do?

Sports psychologists work with athletes to achieve their athletic goals while promoting their physical and mental well-being. Sports psychology helps athletes identify and mitigate obstacles, such as perfectionism or fear of failure, and cultivate key traits, such as confidence or concentration. They work with athletes to improve performance through visualization techniques, habit formation, and mental resilience. They also help athletes cope with the pressures of expectations and high-stress situations through positive self-talk, keeping things in perspective, and practicing self-care.

Who can treat athletes with sports performance problems?

Sports psychologists generally must have a doctorate-level degree to practice, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. There are several accrediting bodies, but accreditation is not a requirement to practice sports psychology. Sports psychologists can work at universities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, sports teams, and in private practice. Patients will want to look for someone with experience, and with whom they will feel comfortable sharing difficult emotions and thoughts.

What’s the best therapy type for sports performance issues?

Sports psychology is the umbrella term for the field that helps athletes specifically. Practitioners may split into “educational” sports psychologists and “clinical” sports psychologists. Educational sports psychologists focus on improving performance through positive self-talk, goal-setting, and emotion regulation. Clinical sports psychologists focus on treating the anxiety, depression, or stress that may come along with intense competition. Specific therapy types used may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnosis, and biofeedback.

Can you overcome sports performance problems with therapy?

An athlete’s identity can be wrapped up in their performance on the field and their standing on the team, so setbacks may hurt their performance as well as their ego and sense of self. Sports psychologists can help athletes understand and work on the underlying psychological and emotional factors that may be impacting their performance. Therapy can help athletes regulate their emotions and build resilience, skills needed on the field as well as off.