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Staying in the Zone: How Neuro-therapy Training Helps Athletes Compete

Caroline Feldman's picture

Recently, it has been an exciting time of evolution in the field of psychology, and specifically, the field of sports psychology. The theories underlying how people are helped to improve their lives are changing. Since the 1940s psychological methods, especially in the field of sports psychology, have reflected the theories of behaviorism, which is based on the primary belief we are as we are because of our behavior. The neurological sciences are now restructuring psychological methods. One of these new methods is called neuro-therapy. It reflects a new model for psychology called the neurological model, which is based on the primary belief we are as we are because of the inner working of the brain and body. Neuro-therapy training is the most modern approach to aid athletes in improving their performances. However beyond the world of sports, it is a process designed to improve people mentally, physically, and chemically. This process enables people to have self control over any aspect of their lives; any weakness, be it physical, chemical or mental in nature.

The focus of neuro-therapy training is on teaching people to improve the activity of the brain, actually focusing on training the brain in order to gain self control (1). Neuro-therapy training incorporates a modern mental training process called subverbal shifting (2) that dramatically reduces the damaging electrical-chemical basis of negative emotions such as fear, frustration or anger. It directly reduces the physiology of negative emotions (3).

Training the brain to reduce the “thought-emotions” that obstruct an effective athletic performance is a brand new approach. The majority of sports psychology approaches used today still involve older methods that try to modify specific athletic behavior. Even hypnotherapy programs used with athletes that are said to involve mental reprogramming or “subliminal programming” are outdated with what is now known about effective psychological improvement. Neuro-therapy training is a mental training approach that improves the physical, chemical and mental aspects of a person. This type of training provides the athlete with a more realistic understanding of things that impair athletic performance. It teaches them that the activity of their mental level, their physical level and their chemical level affects all aspects of their lives including athletic performance.

Each session, the client will learn in a clear, simple and visually illustrated manner about such things as: the mind and the scientific basis of it’s interaction with the body, the nature of emotion as a physical and chemical process, the nature of the concentrated state they will learn to practice daily, and the powerful neurological tools the neuro-therapy specialist will use in sessions to train the brain in order to dispel the physical chemical basis of negative emotion (3).

Each session involves being guided by the specialist into an altered mental state and through a series of mental exercises. This approach is different from others that use a concentrated mental state because change does not happen through use of symptom-directed suggestion and visualization. Instead, powerful mental exercises are used to dissipate the physical and chemical reactions that underlie negative emotions. to respond in new, more health producing ways (4).

Many athletes swear by this type of training and say it improves their performance, among them the tennis champion Mary Pierce and the Olympic gold-medal skier Hermann Maier, not to mention various players on the 2006 World Cup champion Italian soccer team (6). Experts have shown that a state of calm neutrality can help players perform better. The idea is that athletes damage themselves when they can't get past their irritations their remembered failures, like airballs and unforced errors. Neuro-therapy training tries to block this downward spiral of self-destructive doubting. When it works, it helps the player find "the zone" and stay in it. The notion that freedom from stress will make you a better athlete is hardly new. "You must swing smoothly to play golf well and you must be relaxed to swing smoothly, (6)" Bobby Jones said decades ago. Two things have changed since Jones's time to make interventions like neuro-therapy feasible. We can now define a relaxed state of mind with precision, and we seem to have proof that, once relaxed, the brain can be taught to stay that way.

Neuro-therapy training is not about having an athlete visualize the ball going into the hole or visualize the perfect shot. It takes a step back; and it teaches the athlete that the mental level must be disciplined daily just as they have disciplined the physical level. It shows how there is a much more important reason for mental discipline than the act of visualizing an effective shot. Mental responses, especially emotional responses, affect how people function physically and chemically. Also there are physical, chemical and mental weaknesses behind any symptom from which we may suffer, be it a phobia, an ulcer or an ineffective golf swing.

Neuro-therapy training is a modern and realistic approach for athletes desiring to improve their performance. It focuses on training their brains in ways that improve the weaknesses causing their inability to concentrate, their inconsistent play, their frustration and other problems that keep them reaching their full athletic potential.




Paul Grobstein's picture

"Neurotherapy" and athletics and ... ?

Its an interesting idea that behaviorism focused attention on what one did rather than what one thinks, and that with greater attention to the later has come a new approach to athletic training. I wonder though which came first? Paying at least as much attention to what one thinks as what one does is actually an old idea (cf Re-imagining the Sacred Self and my comment after it). And I wonder as well whether how "realistic" it is, whether it works better for some people than for others?

See also Mental Imagery: Does it Really Benefit Athletic Performance? and my comment there.