Mental health in sports is already a hard thing to start seeking help for due to the nature of “grit mentality” and being the toughest one out there. You should be able to find a sports psychologist that makes you feel as comfortable and normal as possible for getting help. If you don’t think you have that, or you also find yourself with a sports psychologist that fits into one of the red-flags below, it is time to start searching for a new person.
1. They Discourage Emotion in Your Sport
There is a lot of stigma as an athlete to be mentally and physically strong while at the same time not showing any emotion. This stigma could even be a reason why you sought out a sports psychologist in the first place. If your sports psychologist is telling you that to be a good athlete you have to be a rock wall who never gets upset, it is definitely time to start looking elsewhere.
2. They Make Unrealistic Comparisons
If your sports psychologist is comparing you to professional athletes or other top college athletes, you have to get out of there. It is unfair to say that people who have dedicated inconceivable amounts of time to their sport would have the same type of experiences as you. It doesn’t matter if you are striving to be a professional athlete or not, you are going to see a sports psychologist to talk about your own problems with your sport, not somebody else’s.
3. They Make Your Problems Seem Easily Fixable
It is nothing short of confusing and frustrating when somebody listens to your problem and gives you a solution without any follow-up to it. If you say you are having trouble with your performance during your sport and your sports psychologist tells you to try being more confident, you should walk right out the door and never look back. They didn’t go to so many years of school just to tell you something that your roommate who’s half-listening could tell you.
4. They Talk About Themselves
When your sports psychologist continuously brings up their own experiences as an athlete, it’s time to start surfing the web for a new person to see. You aren’t paying them to talk about their own issues and what helped them. The same things that worked for someone else don’t automatically mean they will work for you. Make sure that your sports psychologist has you and you only in their mind when you walk in their door.
5. If You Are Still Uncomfortable With Them After Many Sessions
Of course, it’s normal to feel discomfort when being vulnerable in front of a stranger. However, it is your sports psychologist’s job to make sure that they have created a safe space for you to talk to them about your problems in your sport. If after more than 4 or 5 sessions you don’t feel like your comfort level is growing with them, that psychologist is not the one for you.
6. You Can’t Trust Their Confidentiality
Confidentiality is a huge part of what psychology is. You need to be able to trust your sports psychologist or else you aren’t going to make any progress. An important purpose of going to see a sports psychologist is that they are an expert, but they are also an outside person to talk to without any biases about your situation. Try to make sure that you know whether you have a sports psychologist you can trust before you start your sessions if that is possible.
7. They Make You Feel Weak For Seeing Them
As said earlier, there is already a lot of stigma around seeking help for your mental health in the world of athletics. Your sports psychologist should surely know this going into your sessions, so if you find yourself feeling more embarrassed about getting help for your problems during your sessions, that psychologist is not the person for you.
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* Originally published on June 8, 2023, by Bella Nevin