In today’s sporting landscape there are a plethora of unique and specific challenges that competitive athletes encounter on a daily basis. Athletes are asked to undergo immense physical, mental, and emotional stressors in order to live up to the ever rising expectations of coaches, parents, and fans. The collateral damage of such physical, mental, and emotional conditioning can be seen in everything from addiction, violence, depression, and suicide. An athlete’s mental health is of paramount importance as an athlete wades into a competitive sporting culture that favors performance over person.
In order to fully understand and begin to address the many things that arise in the lives of athletes there must be an understanding of how each athlete came to the present. The work of athlete psychotherapy looks at the essence and impact of each individual’s relationships on their development as a person and athlete. These relationships and their particular influence shape how each person comes to understand themselves, others, and their ultimate worldview. Without an awareness of the impact of these relationships and environments that have shaped us, we end up mindlessly repeating the past in the present. By exploring and encountering these old narratives in the present, we can open up the possibility of something new for the future.
This process is bound to the belief that an athlete will perform at his or her best when they are most healthy and aware of their whole person (body, mind, and spirit). Our bodies and minds cannot be separated, and the preference and attention of one at the expense of the other will inevitably lead to injury. In contrast with sports psychology, which primarily focuses on mental performance enhancement, athlete psychotherapy focuses on athletes overall health, worth, and dignity regardless of their performance on a playing surface. One cannot be a healthy athlete if they are not first and foremost a healthy person.
Athlete psychotherapy is very impactful for athletes and former athletes who are struggling with a sense of identity and purpose, or are experiencing symptoms like excessive fear, anger, anxiety, depression, or even thoughts of suicide. This work is also relevant for coaches, trainers, and parents who are wanting to understand how their own stories impact the lives of their athletes, clients, and children.