In my work as a Clinical Sports Psychologist with teams and organisations such as GB Rowing, UK Athletics and premiership football and rugby teams, I am often asked whether my role is to ‘motivate’ athletes. In fact, motivation is only a small part of what Clinical Psychologists do.
Clinical sport psychology is about taking a holistic approach to dealing with athletes’ issues. It will help to identify problems relating to performance dysfunction (e.g. a dip in performance), performance impairment due to clinical issues (e.g. depression or anxiety), performance termination (e.g. a career-ending injury or transition into a new role outside of sport) and also performance development (e.g. optimal performance under pressure, coping with adversity and developing a sustained focus).
Once a proper assessment has been done, a bespoke intervention plan is developed to help manage the athlete back to peak performance as soon as possible. We utilise a range of cognitive, behavioural or psycho-pharmacological treatment methods to deal with the identified problem (taking a multi-disciplinary team approach when needed).
The value that Clinical Sports Psychologists add is that they understand the working of the mind and can therefore focus on the mechanisms of change and not only deliver recipes for change. The former will ensure sustainable change with a much stronger impact on performance.