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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: January 2016

21 - Awareness, Self-Awareness, and Mindfulness: The Application of Theory to Practice



Learning the art of helping others is a personal journey, requiring a commitment to knowing and understanding yourself.

Mark Young (1998, p. 2).

The purpose of this chapter is to provide educational, didactic, and experiential material to help practitioners increase their awareness of their own thoughts, feelings, wants, and behaviors, to ensure that they are effectively meeting the needs of the client with whom they are working. Specifically, the chapter will identify the ways in which mindfulness can benefit the practice of sport psychology consultants (SPCs) by increasing self-awareness. This can enhance the counseling relationship and working alliance, key parts of effective sport psychology consultation (Andersen & William-Rice, 1996; Petitpas, Giges, & Danish, 1999). Mindfulness can help with the flexibility and tact required to maintain the give and take between themselves and the client. While there is currently a paucity of literature on this topic in the field of sport psychology, research from other fields and supplemental exercises will inform how mindful and self-aware SPCs can be more effective in their practice.

Theoretical Background

Self-awareness can be viewed through a number of theoretical orientations. From psychoanalytic theory (Munroe, 1955, pp. 34–47), we learn that all behavior has meaning; past events and unconscious processes influence present functioning; and the relationship between practitioner and client is critical. Transactional analysis (Berne, 1961, p. 35) describes the child within and its influence on communication and relationships. Gestalt therapy (Perls, 1969) emphasizes the significance of awareness and of present experience, that is, how the client is functioning in the here and now. Cognitive therapy (Beck, 1967, p. 318) adopts the principle that thinking is the major determinant of feelings and behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapies teach that our thoughts (e.g., core beliefs, automatic thoughts, and appraisals), feelings (i.e., emotions and somatic sensations), and behaviors (e.g., adaptive or maladaptive) interact with one another, leading to learned patterns (Barlow et al., 2011, p. 52). No matter how one conceptualizes the origins of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, perhaps the most important skill SPCs can develop to best serve their clients is self-awareness. A recent article by Ridley, Mollen, and Kelly (2011) in the Counseling Psychologist explains why this is so.

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