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Winning the Mind Game

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Winning the Mind Game

By: John H. Edgette, Psy.D. and Tim Rowan, M.S.W.

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Crown House Publishing, Ltd., Copyright 2003

Reviewed by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D


Winning the Mind Game, by John H. Edgette and Tim Rowan is a book for hypnotherapists who want to expand their practices to include sports psychology. If you are a hypnotherapist who is already familiar with sports psychology, this book may give you some good pointers for honing your skills.

Sports psychology is the practice of helping athletes improve performance and overcome psychological obstacles that get in the way. Sports psychology can also extend to working with athletic coaches and athletic teams, as well as athletes' families.

Edgette and Rowan hold that any competent therapist with training in brief therapy approaches can adapt his or her therapeutic methods to working with athletes. After all, like the general population, athletes encounter a number of issues that diminish their potential for success on the playing field. Such difficulties might include interpersonal conflicts, stress, shyness, trauma, lack of confidence, anger control, pain management, and substance abuse. Sports psychology is not just for Olympians or professional athletes---it is also for school age and college athletes as well as amateurs who simply want to improve their game.

One of the primary things I learned from reading this book is that sports psychology is much more than teaching an athlete to relax and visualize a perfect performance. The authors present a model of therapy for athletes that relies on four elements:

1) Help the athlete develop a proper stance or attitude toward sports performance.

2) Teach the athlete cognitive and psychological skills that enhance performance.

3) Teach the athlete self-hypnosis to improve concentration and focus.

4) Assist the athlete in accessing internal resources.

Edgette and Rowan also recommend that sports psychology practitioners have at least one sport they are passionate about, either as a player or as a spectator. Practitioners who have been athletes, themselves, will have an advantage because they will better understand the emotional issues of sports, from first hand experience.

Getting Started - Needs Assessment

The authors give guidance on how practitioners can assess the psychological needs of athlete clients. Edgette and Rowan recommend that practitioners ask questions that cover four categories of information. These categories are:

1) Goal-oriented questions: What do you want?

2) Solution-focused questions: How will you know when you have it?

3) Resource retrieval questions: What resources do you need?

4) Context support questions: Who can you count on to support you?

Combining these four types of questions will help the athlete client create a well-formed outcome and guide the practitioner in designing the proper intervention. The authors include annotated transcripts from actual therapy sessions, to demonstrate the process of needs assessment in sports psychology.

Entering the Zone

At peak performance, athletes are "in the zone"---a state of heightened awareness and concentration, where movement and coordination take on a fluidity that makes the performance seem effortless. "The zone" is an eyes-open trance state that usually seems to happen by chance. The authors provide instructions on how to teach athletes to enter "the zone" at will, through hypnosis. The elements for conditioning the state are:

1) Hypnotic regression to memories of being in the zone.
2) Suggestions and metaphors that use language from the athlete's sport (i.e., a football player might want to "tackle" a problem.

3) Anchoring the state and teaching the athlete to access the state instantly and exit easily.

Edgette and Rowan include a chapter on developing "eyes-open trance" that is quite a nugget. Essentially, an eyes-open trance allows an athlete to maintain a narrow, alert, focus, while moving and talking-and ultimately, while playing the game. While reading this chapter, it occurred to me that an eyes-open trance could be useful for other types of performers such as entertainers and artists.

Applications, Methods, and Marketing

The book covers the ways in which hypnotic phenomena, such as amnesia, time distortion, age regression, age progression, dissociation, hypnotic daydreaming, and analgesia have utility in sports psychology. There is a brief chapter on hypnotic methods such as metaphor, pattern interruptions, and Steve deShazer's "miracle question."---and how these might apply to sports issues.

Chapter 10 describes a group induction that can be used for hypnotizing an entire athletic team at once---something I've not encountered before in any other similar text. This chapter consists of a transcript for hypnosis with a high school soccer team that exhorts the team to practice, maintain a positive attitude, stay with the game plan, feel energetic, and play fair, among other things. This chapter could have benefited from a discussion of the pitfalls that may occur with group hypnosis, and some of the precautions a practitioner can take when working with entire teams. Additionally, the authors could have addressed the importance of obtaining parental permission before working with minors---especially if the hypnosis is taking place on the playing field or in the locker room, and not in a therapist's office.

The final chapter in the book gives readers some brief advice on how to break into and market a sports psychology practice that features hypnosis.

About the Authors

John H. Edgette, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is Co-Director of the Milton H. Erickson Institute of Philadelphia and co-author of The Handbook of Hypnotic Phenomena in Psychotherapy. He travels internationally, giving seminars on sport psychology to both therapists and athletes.

Tim Rowan, M.S.W., maintains a clinical practice in Maryland and holds the position of Division Chair of Behavioral Sciences and Social Science and Professor of Human Services at Allegany College of Maryland. Additionally, he has been a soccer coach and football coach.


Winning the Mind Game is an easy, enjoyable read, with useful, practical information for hypnotherapists who want to venture into sports psychology. The main emphasis in this book is on Ericksonian hypnotherapy. To NLP Practitioners, the text may suffer somewhat from the omission of a host of NLP methods that could be used in sports psychology; especially those in which Bandler and Grinder and others have codified Erickson's work. For example, the authors mention twice that hypnosis has applications for athletes having post-traumatic stress disorder, but they omit to say which hypnotic methods would apply-and to NLP folk, the answer is obviously V-K Dissociation.

Winning the Mind Game is not a book that I'd name as the definitive text on hypnosis in sports psychology. Nevertheless, if you practice hypnotherapy, and you like sports, and you think you might enjoy working with athletes, then this book will give you the encouragement and inspiration that might prompt you to include sports psychology in your work.

To order Winning the Mind Game contact:

Crown House Publishing Ltd. Crown Building Bancyfelin, Carmarthen, Wales SA33 5ND, UK Email: Phone: 44-0-1267-211-345

In the US: Crown House Publishing P.O. Box 2223 Williston, VT 05495 USA Phone: 877 925 1213 Fax: 802 864 7626