Essay about the Cognitive Approach in Applied Sports Psychology

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Sports psychology is focused upon various theoretical perspectives: psychodynamic, humanistic, behavioural and cognitive, biological, and psychosocial models. These perspectives provide an explanation and description of human behaviour and the reasoning behind behavioural changes. Furthermore, they are implicit in the practitioner’s practices and theories. Although there have been some influential theories in sports psychology, cognitive-behavioural has had an implicit impact for multiple reasons. Despite the lack of cognitive psychological studies strictly focused on sports, competitive sports enable researchers the ability to study fundamental cognitive processes, for example, memory, knowledge acquisition, attention and visual search. In addition to expert views on the performance of complicated abilities and actions for strict control of time within constantly altered environments. This review will be focusing on the critical analysis of the cognitive approach in an applied sports psychology practice.

Cognitive psychology examines an individual’s internal brain processes concentrated on understanding the environment and reviewing what the applicable action required. Eysench et al. (2015) focus on the cognitive functionalities which comprise the following: perception, attention, learning, memory, language, problem-solving and reasoning. The cognitive approach can be described as an attempt to comprehend what is human cognition through observation of people’s behaviour when participating in cognitive tasks. There are three explicit areas of cognitive sports psychology - imagery, attention and expertise- required in understanding how dysfunctional processes have progressed into a functional progression or can be progressed when studies are performed on athletes. Moran (2008) stated that motor cognition provided a model for this approach as it acknowledges the link between an athlete’s cognition and action, including the significance of knowledge of the body and awareness of an individual’s movement whilst attributed to their cognitive activity.

In the Hofmann et al. (2013) study cognitive behavioural therapy is considered as the most result-orientated procedure for numerous syndromes in various environments such as sport. Though there is a growing interest in CBT, amongst most sports psychologists, there is limited published research demonstrating the significance of key cognitive principles for applied sports practice. It is often perceived that CBT is representative of one cognitive approach, however, it is a term linked to multiple therapies which incorporate cognitive and behavioural responses. For instance, rational emotive behaviour therapy is another form of therapy. There is research in sport available in support of many of the other approaches, despite there being a lack of specific publications in direct support of cognitive behaviour. The groundwork of cognitive behaviour is considered by various key concepts such as systematic information-procession biases that are integral to the improvement and maintenance of psychological issues. Furthermore, the CBT technique insinuates the psychological difficulties originate from the involvement of a person’s experiences: distorted or prejudiced rationale, emotional and behavioural responses, and physiology. Furthermore, the interferences between the four systems are thought to be impacted by environmental elements. Moreover, another factor of CBT is cognitive development from a negative to a positive outcome. Additionally, the transformation of an athlete’s behaviour and the emotional responses also the somatic reaction could be accomplished by the resolving modification of mental processes and formats. Although the mediation work aims to accomplish positive transformations in mental processes, either directly or indirectly modifying through behaviour mediation. Conversely, this method of CB strictly requires the practitioner’s skill to encourage the client to participate in any form of verbal or visual dialogue about their issue, thus the ability to perform CB mediation. The common social ground holds unchanging central beliefs that are inaccessible to an individual’s consciousness. Beck (1995) stated that the common social belief is incorporated and valid in lifetime scenarios, such as an athlete stating they are incapable of performing better in their sport. The fundamental beliefs impact the cognitive stage of consciousness and preconsciousness. Cognitive behaviour therapy claims that the majority of instantaneous undesirable contemplations do not hold significance. The role of a sports practitioner is to construct negative opinions that are able to serve a positive purpose clearly by supported treatment and various methods.

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One cognitive technique includes the use of imagery, which was used on 345 athletes, in training in competition to see if confidence was enhanced. This study discovered motivational imagery was the benefactor in building confidence during sporting events. Imagery has been discovered to be more beneficial for elite athletes in competition compared to training (Hall & Chandler, 2009). A sports practitioner has a chance to contemplate which cognitive models they utilise to inform applied sports psychology decision-making. Furthermore, Anderson’s research (2009) implies that the commonly used approach is cognitive behaviour in contrast to psychotherapy - the ‘canon’, the most prominent methods used are imagery, goal setting, self-talk and relaxation. Additionally, rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) is perceived to be the initial form of CBT, it differs from other approaches as it focuses on rational and irrational beliefs, as the central cognitive premises between scenarios and attitudes and behaviour responses. It is through the cognitive behavioural mediation in the sport setting formed a practical sports psychological importance, which is in conjunction with the athlete’s development and greater progression within the department. Furthermore, these mediations involve the management of stress through the usage of coping skills methods. Additionally, the use of imagery performance improvement procedures assists the practitioner in constructing positive-based imagery for the client, goal setting, ability to control focus and retention techniques, and the usage of self-efficacy mediations. Usually, the usage of cognitive behavioural methods has had a significant impact on the growth of sports psychology. Sports psychology research which has been published regarding mediation places greater importance towards the content rather than towards the development of forming a relationship between the practitioner and client, as well as their execution.

Similarly, there is a necessity to comprehend the functionality of the mechanisms of change and action. Even though sports psychologists attain the intellect and capabilities, there is still a lack of clarity on the deliverance of conversations with the clients for instance, the practitioner’s usage of dialogue mechanisms which have incorporated precise frameworks and devices which are applied, as well as constructing a beneficial alliance with the client, and ability to recognise the athletes willingness to participate in mediation, the framework which supports the decision the practitioner implements during each session. In addition, the practitioner’s procedures for implementing various compatible therapeutic strategies are not frequently emphasised in detail. Therefore, it becomes problematic when other practitioners attempt to duplicate publicised mediations, this also increases the difficulty when attempting to recognise the methods which achieve causes success with the mediations. The cognitive behaviour principles are perhaps the most prevailing in the world of mental health as this is the main beneficial option for the treatment of an increasing number of cases that need to deal with various forms of anguish. Notwithstanding the fact that these restrictions are pertinent towards sports psychology, this is because cognitive behavioural techniques and other related therapies are still being used with clients who are athletes. This relates to instances where it is necessary to find solutions for an athlete’s difficult situation, possibly towards the obligation of recognising and reimplantation of the client's strengths, however, practitioners have risks of seeming overly discerning or insolent when scrutinising and analysing non-rational thinking and distorted thinking patterns. There are some instances where CBT will be unable to be effective in a third of cases, and an inclination to associate this with the client’s reduced motivation or any form of positive insight. Furthermore, if there is a mediation within CBT that is analysed and considered to not be successful, in regard to the goals of the intervention, the preliminary assessment is interrogated.

To conclude with the multiple approaches and therapies that fall under and are attributed to cognitive behavioural therapy, practitioners are more often challenged to train this discipline and work with one or more of these approaches in any given client session or research. This is problematic because of the variation within the CBTs and the lack of clarity, also there is not enough practice literature from a professional perspective, which incorporates the implicit usage of several CBTs. Overall, the fundamental cognitive principles of memory, attention, visual search and knowledge acquisition, are implicit when working with an athlete as they work in time-constrained situations and constantly changing environments.

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