Sport Psychotherapy with Sarah SteventonWarwick and Warwickshire

Mental Health in Sport

Warwickshire Specialist Anxiety Centre was set up by Sarah in 2016 to treat people with anxiety disorders; such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, Health Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Performance Anxiety, as well as many other stress related issues.

Prior to this the practice covered all aspects of mental health, treating people with issues such as depression, trauma, addiction, eating disorders etc

I formed Warwickshire Specialist Anxiety Centre, in response to the number of clients I was seeing in my practice suffering with anxiety disorders, and so wanted to focus my work on specifically helping individuals struggling in this area.

We successfully treat individuals with conditions such as OCD, and other chronic anxiety conditions, and well as professional sports people with performance anxiety and general anxiety due to stress and pressure they are under.

We obtain results in incredibly fast time-frames. Often results are achieved from only a couple of sessions, as the techniques used make such rapid changes often instantaneously, so it has the ability to stop anxiety in its tracks.

Many of these clients have sought help previously from either a counsellor or a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. They have often received a number of sessions but are still experiencing anxiety.

Unfortunately we find just counselling or therapy such as CBT, is not effective in treating anxiety, whether it is general anxiety, performance anxiety, health anxiety, or OCD. This is because with both counselling and CBT, you are working with the logical, rational part of the brain, and anxiety is formed by a different part of the brain - which is why anyone suffering with anxiety will tell you, how they feel is certainly not a rational.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy ( CBT) which focuses on short term treatment plans, by giving people the skills and awareness to begin to manage their own mental health, is really about managing the feelings of anxiety.

The work we do isn't about 'managing' anxiety - it is about stopping it in its tracks and we get results in super quick time-frames.

We work with professional sports people, across many different disciplines, but mainly Rugby, Cricket, football, golf and Motorsport - and with the recent pandemic, and some of those players now seeing a return to training, and for some now play is imminent, all be it behind closed doors, the need for help has increased ten fold. Luckily the results seen with this style of therapy are rapid.

This obviously suits sports men and women, who like to see results immediately.

It really appeals to sportsmen, who tend to be extremely pleased to find out that this isn’t counselling, so there isn't the need for endless talking things through - so it also suits someone who doesn't find it easy to talk about how they feel.

This style of Psychotherapy is really more best described as Neuropsychology. It utilises Neuroplasticity, which is the brain's own natural ability to change, to remove the negative feeling, so that it actually stops it occurring in the future. This destroys the problem response so the issue is gone completely. So there is also no need to learn techniques or strategies to deal with the feelings – like CBT requires.

We have seen some fantastic work being done recently around the awareness of mental health, particularly in sport with the likes of the Charity 'Heads Together' and the brilliant 'Heads Up' campaign that has highlighted how we can all come together to change the conversation on mental health through football.

Talking of course is great, and it can really help to get the ball rolling, but with issues such as anxiety, it does need specialist help, because unfortunately talking alone can't stop something like anxiety.

Players are often very reluctant to confide in their management team, even when their club is very supportive.

We know that players have been made aware that there are support groups out there for them, or therapy that they can seek out, but we know 95% of them are still extremely unlikely to reach out, so we know that something more permanent in a club is really the way forward.

It is well known that sport has the potential for high levels of stress and anxiety, and evidence also suggests that anxiety can play a role in sport injury prevention, occurrence, rehabilitation, and the return to sport process, so this impacts both the player and the club.

So much time and focus is spent on a player's physical health.

The mental side or mental health should be as high a priority as physical health. Teams have a permanent physio - someone constantly looking after their physical health, so it really doesn't make sense not to have a permanent specialist looking after their mental health too - they should see it as 'Physio for the brain'!

It is an outdated strategy to focus purely on the physical health of players.

The FA 4 Corner Model suggests that player development needs to be looked at from a technical, physical, psychological and social point of view – and that no corner works in isolation from the others - but are clubs actually missing that 4th corner - the psychological aspect.

Everyone knows that sport is over 50% mental - so if players don't have the right support they are only operating at 50%...just think what they could do at 100%

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