Using Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy to alter unhealthy perfectionist beliefs in elite adolescent soccer players: An Action Research study

Richard Hampson, GB Canoeing, United Kingdom

Theme: Youth sport

Program ID: SYM-05

Presentation: October 3, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am

Room: Melrose


Perfectionism is a multidimensional and multifaceted construct of which not all dimensions are believed to be maladaptive. For example, a profile characterised by low perfectionistic concerns and high perfectionistic strivings may lead to positive psychological and behavioural (performance) outcomes. Despite this, there has been a lack of applied research demonstrating how interventions may be used to help create more healthy versions of the construct within individuals.This presentation will reflect upon an action research intervention carried out by a trainee sport psychologist aimed at developing more healthy perfectionistic beliefs and behaviours (i.e. low perfectionistic concerns and high perfectionistic strivings) in a sample of eight elite academy soccer players (mean age 17.5 years). Four action research cycles were conducted over a period of four months. During cycle one, the trainee psychologist initially identified players who demonstrated high levels of unhealthy perfectionism (e.g., high perfectionistic concerns) associated with the expectations and pressures of the academy (e.g., gaining a professional soccer contract). The learning and reflection process subsequently directed the content of the further action-research cycles. Specifically, rational emotive behavioural therapy (REBT) was employed by the practitioner as the main approach to reconstruct the unhelpful beliefs and behaviours causing and resulting from the performers’ high levels of unhealthy perfectionism. Despite REBT having been reported as having highly beneficial effects for reconstructing dysfunctional beliefs in other domains (e.g. clinical and educational psychology), there has been a relative lack of investigation surrounding its use with athletes. The results of this study are discussed using individual case studies of intervention effectiveness and via the learning experiences of the trainee throughout each of the action research cycles Further reflections and suggestions for the application of action research in an elite youth organisation and REBT within elite adolescent populations will conclude this presentation.

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