by Joseph Tramontana, PhD
Crown House Publishing, July 2011
“Do just once what others say you can’t do and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.”—James R. Cook
-from Sports Hypnosis, Appendix “Affirmations”
Sports Hypnosis In Practice, by Dr. Joseph Tramontana, is a delightful, candid and enormously useful book for clinicians working with athletes. Licensed clinical psychologist, and one time runner, sprinter and coach, Dr. Tramontana applies his clinical skills and imagination to the mental side of sports. He weaves together hypnotherapy techniques, elements from the culture of competitive athletics, and specific directions for uncovering meaningful personal imagery, to help athletes improve their performance.
Dr. Tramontana accomplishes this within a solid base of classical hypnotherapy technique and multi-level communications for unlocking potential. He writes in a direct, genuine, and first person style that lends itself to an appreciation to this interesting sub-specialty. He includes a variety of ideas in story-telling, interviews, affirmations, quotes, books, and movies that help with the process and enlivens the text for the reader.
“What I especially enjoy about working with athletes, young or older,” Joe explained to the Times, “is their extremely high motivation to improve.” Joe’s enjoyment of sports culture and his concern for the athletes emerge clearly in the text.
“… I find it to be a fun and exciting sub-area of my general psychological practice,” he writes in the Introduction. “Typically athletes are not coming to see me because of psychological disturbance; rather they are seeking self- improvement in their sport.”
“…The progress, gains, and successes are often quick, dramatic, and measurable,” he notes, a situation that makes this work a satisfying, upbeat area of clinical practice.
In Sports Hypnosis Dr. Tramontana provides specific directions and scripts, showing the reader how to modify techniques and suggestions for particular sports or particular athletes.
For instance, he explains the difference in the mental approach of a tennis player, who keeps moving, to that of a competitive golfer who has more than enough time to dwell on a mistake. The golfer “has more time to think between shots. If the previous shot was a bad one, this thinking can involve grappling with self-doubt, anxiety, fear of failure, and tension.”
In another example, Joe presents a case with a young gymnast who had fallen and who finds it impossible to perform the same move unless her coach is near the bar. “Hypno- projection was then utilized to review performing the skills perfectly in the past (age regression),” Joe writes. “…and then seeing herself doing them perfectly in the future (future projection).” Next, he used scripts involving an approach for “rehearsing future performance.” And finally, “…the client was told to ask the coach to move a little further away each day and to practice these
techniques at home.” In a short time the gymnast was back performing comfortably.
The directions and scripts are enhanced by a set of interviews with coaches and athletes, including Brian Kinchen, former LSU football star and NFL tight end and long snapper. Also included is LSU women’s tennis coach Tony Minnis, LSU’s women’s softball coach, Yvette Girouard, and LSU’s equestrian club team coach, Leaf Boswell.
Sports Hypnosis is complete with scientific links and references, successfully blending with the work of other sports psychology experts, information from researchers in human performance, and important techniques from other hypnotherapists.
As a former competitive runner and sprinter, and also a coach for marathoners, Joe demonstrates his insightful knowledge about the challenges and demands that athletes encounter. He brings together his knowledge of normal personality, clinical insight, and his awareness of the emotional demands that arise in a variety of competitive endeavors, to show how the clinician can uncover the cognitive psychology of the athletes’ beliefs.
Sports Hypnosis will be directly and immediately useful for psychologists trained in clinical hypnosis who want to assist athletes, but it will also be valuable to those who want to better understand the specifics of indirect methods and how hypnotherapists engage the subconscious to help clients overcome personal obstacles.
The design of the book begins with a crisp but complete “Introduction,” providing background and scientific context for applications. In Chapter 1, “Overview of Hypnotic Approaches with Athletes,” Joe outlines the techniques he uses for trace induction and deepening, imagery, and techniques for specific suggestions for athletes.
For instance, he describes “The elevator,” “The practice effect and generalization effect,” and “Efficiency and effectiveness.” Also included is “Alert and open eye hypnosis,” a technique essential for athletes. In later chapters he describes techniques such as “World Class Visualizer,” and “Space Travel Meditation.”
He clarifies how self-hypnosis is used for homework and explains the use of story-telling and “Inspirational stories.” He reviews how issues with low self- esteem, self-sabotage, or other emotional issues may need to be discovered in sections on “Uncovering” and “Reframing.”
Chapters 2 through 9 address specific sports, beginning Chapter 2, “Golfers” followed by Chapter 3, “Track and Field Athletes: Sprinters, Distance Runners, and High Jumpers,” and Chapter 4, “Gymnastics and Cheerleaders.”
In Chapter 5, “Equestrians: Show Jumping,” Joe reviews his work with a female equestrian who reported feedback of a “slow motion” effect following hypnotherapy, allowing her to feel as though she had extra time to mentally prepare. “
In “The US Big Three: Football, Baseball, and Basketball,” Chapter 6, Joe interviews Brian Kinchen, tight end for LSU, the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Raves, and Carolina Panthers. Kinchen became the deep snapper for the New England Patriots and snapped the winning field goal in the team’s Super Bowl victory.
Chapter 7, “Softball (Fast Pitch), Chapter 8 on “Tennis,” and Chapter 9
covering “Volleyball, Soccer, Olympic Shooting, Cycling, and Rugby,” completes the review of specific sports.
Dr. Tramontana shifts gears in Chapter 10 to give a review of “Recovering from Injury and Returning to Training and Competition,” which includes hypnotic techniques to enhance recovery after surgery or injury.
“My work with pain patients–I currently work one day per week in a pain management clinic and am referred to as their ‘pain psychologist’– dovetails nicely with working with athletes who have overuse or injury- related pain,” Joe noted.
Chapter 11, “Substance Abuse and Other Addictive Behaviors,” builds on his clinical expertise of working with additive behaviors.
Sections on “Affirmations” and on “Books and Movies,” are given in the Appendix, and complete this engaging, upbeat and very usable book.
Dr. Joseph Tramontana is in private practice in Baton Rouge, and is also a Psychological Consultant to DDS. Additionally, he serves as the “Pain Psychologist” at Southern Pain & Anesthesia, in Metairie. He also sees clients monthly in Pass Christian, MS. He has served as Director of the North Mississippi Mental Health and Retardation Center. He belongs to the Southern Pain Society and the Mississippi Pain Society, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (for whom he has served as a faculty member), and the Association of Applied Sports Psychologists. He is a member of APA, the Louisiana and Mississippi Psychological Associations. Dr. Tramontana was recently elected to the Louisiana Psychological Association Executive Council and is Chairperson of the Public Affairs Committee and of the Elections Committee.
He is presenting a workshop in September (2011) at the annual meeting of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, an international organization, held this year in New Orleans.
Sports Hypnosis is his second book. His first is Hypnotically Enhanced Treatment for Addictions, also published by Crown.