Sports Psychology
The Basic Models of Psychology, Applied to Sports

    As with any field of study, there are a variety of ways to explain why people behave the way they do.  The 4 basic models of Psychology each attempt to provide a reasonable explanation for what sometimes seems to be very unusual behavior.  The basic concepts in any theoretical model of psychology determine how our dysfunctions are defined, what is seen as the source of our problems, what types of interventions will be effective in changing the behaviors, and the research methods that are used to measure the extent of problem and its outcomes.  Proponents of different models attend to and choose problems in different ways, and explain them differently.  Here is a simplified look at each model:
The Cognitive Model says that our problems can be traced to our thinking processes.  If we are what we think we are, then all problems are a result of faulty thinking processes.  Interventions help the person change their thinking patterns and expectations.  Evaluation comes through a combination of direct measurements, informal observations, and the insight of the person having the problems.  By improving our thought processes, we can improve our lives.
The Behavioral Model says that our problems are rooted in rewards and punishments we have received from past behaviors.  Difficulties occur when behaviors we have been conditioned to exhibit are viewed by others as inappropriate.  Interventions include training and reconditioning, so we will exhibit appropriate behaviors.  Research is conducted in a very scientific manner, with great quantities of data being gathered during direct observation of the individual.  By changing our behavior patterns, we can improve our lives.
The Humanistic Model says that our problems originate when we are prevented from being our complete selves.  It accepts that all people want to achieve self-actualization, and problems arise when obstacles hinder that process.   Interventions are designed to help the person be self-aware and to reach their full potential.  Measurement comes in the form of descriptive narratives that measure the person's quality of life.  By accepting ourselves fully for who we are, we can improve our lives.
The PsychoDynamic Model says that our problems stem from internal conflicts that we have not been able to resolve.  These problems are defined as self-destructive behaviors that are inconsistent with the person we seem to be, possibly creations of our unconscious mind.  Intervention includes analysis of the source events that caused our problems, and gaining insight into the motives for our behaviors.  Case studies are used to practice our analytical skills, and trace the effectiveness of our interventions.  By understanding the inner source of our problems, we can improve our lives.

    A major controversy for the entire field is the issue of causality.  As you can see above, even the experts do not agree on the exact causes of the problems that beset us.  An athlete may sincerely believe that some external factor is the cause of their dysfunctional behavior.  Objective examination may reveal that it is actually the athlete's perception of that factor that is causing the behavior.  More significantly, we cannot be completely certain whether a change in our behavior was caused by an effective strategy we chose, or by the mere fact that we were much more aware of that behavior, and changed it because we finally desired to.  There is probably no final answer to this paradox, though psychologists would certainly argue the proven results of the strategy they favor.

    There is a great deal of evidence that the most effective strategies are those that draw on a combination of different models.  Athletes appear to benefit most when they have multiple methods of resolving their personal issues.  From a scientific standpoint, the issue this raises is that it becomes much more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of any one program, since we cannot be certain which strategy is having what effect.  The increase in variables causes controversy as proponents of different systems fight over why the intervention is being effective.  All in all, it still seems best to apply a balanced variety of techniques.  For this Course, the methods will be individually selected to meet the needs and philosophy of each student, and Our will be a combination of models.

    Before you proceed, it is important that you understand the basic principles of each of the main psychological models.  The links below will connect you to a series of pages that explain the important terminology, concepts, and applications of each model.
Cognitive Model
Behavioral Model
Humanistic Model
PsychoDynamic Model

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