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Br J Sports Med. 2019 Jun;53(12):767-771. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-100654. Epub 2019 Apr 3.

Psychotherapy for mental health symptoms and disorders in elite athletes: a narrative review.

Author information

1
Clinical Psychology, Mercer University - Atlanta Campus, Atlanta, Georgia, USA stillman_ma@mercer.edu.
2
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.
3
Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
4
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
5
Ebling Library for the Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
6
Clinical Psychology, Mercer University - Atlanta Campus, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
7
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Athletes, like non-athletes, suffer from mental health symptoms and disorders that affect their lives and their performance. Psychotherapy, either as the sole treatment or combined with other non-pharmacological and pharmacological strategies, is a pivotal component of management of mental health symptoms and disorders in elite athletes. Psychotherapy takes the form of individual, couples/family or group therapy and should address athlete-specific issues while being embraced as normative by athletes and their core stakeholders.

MAIN FINDINGS:

This narrative review summarises controlled and non-controlled research on psychotherapy for elite athletes with mental health symptoms and disorders. In summary, treatment is similar to that of non-athletes-although with attention to issues that are athlete-specific. Challenges associated with psychotherapy with elite athletes are discussed, including diagnostic issues, deterrents to help-seeking and expectations about services. We describe certain personality characteristics sometimes associated with elite athletes, including narcissism and aggression, which could make psychotherapy with this population more challenging. The literature regarding psychotherapeutic interventions in elite athletes is sparse and largely anecdotal.

KEYWORDS:

elite performance; mental; psychiatry; psychology; sport psychology

PMID:
30944086
DOI:
10.1136/bjsports-2019-100654
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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