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The Flexible Mind

Acceptance & Commitment Approaches for Athletes’ Wellbeing and Performance:
The Flexible Mind

A New Approach to Balancing Performance and Wellbeing

Elite sport can be an unforgiving and harsh environment. This book explores psychological predictors of wellbeing and performance excellence in elite level athletes, and presents an innovative approach for optimizing mental wellbeing and sporting performance. Jointly developed by performance psychologists, clinical psychologists and sport scientists the Flexible Mind approach draws on contemporary psychological theory and research to help athletes build ‘psychological flexibility’ - the ability to experience challenging thoughts and emotions and still be true to one’s values. A range of case-studies relating to different sports are used to demonstrate how three core components - Being Present, Being Open and Doing What Matters - can deliver for athletes’ performance and wellbeing. This book will be a game-changing resource for sports psychologists, mental health practitioners, coaches and support staff who are committed to helping athletes to excel and stay well.

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Flexibility... of the Psychological Kind

Psychological flexibility is the ability to have different thoughts and emotions and still do what matters to you. The Flexible Mind approach aims to boost psychological flexibility by specifically working on three overlapping aspects; Being Present, Being Open and Doing What Matters. 

Are you able to appreciate the richness of your present moment experiences?


Are you able to notice that thoughts and feelings can come and go?

Being Present is about recognising that there is a ‘you’ that can notice the breadth of current moment experiences.

Are you able to get untangled from your mind’s ‘stories’ about our lives?

Are you willing to create space for difficult thoughts and emotions?

Being Open is about adopting a courageous and curious willingness to explore current experiences (even if they are difficult) and unhooking from the mind’s tendency to want to define ourselves on the basis of these experiences.

Are you clear what matters in life?

Are you committing to actions that are in keeping with our values?

Doing What Matters is about getting clear about our values and committing to actions that are consistent with these values.

About the Authors

Ross G. White is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Queen's University of Belfast, UK. He undertakes consultancy work in elite sport environments including providing mental health support to a Premier League Football Club academy and a Pro-14 Rugby Team. 

Andrew Bethell is a clinical psychologist. Andrew trained at the University of Liverpool, UK and currently provides mental health support to individual athletes, teams and staff groups across several high-performance sport environments in the United Kingdom. 

Lewis Charnock is a BASES accredited sport scientist (psychology) and Performance Psychologist at Everton Football Club Academy, UK. He has substantial experience working in youth and elite sport settings. 

Stephen Leckey is Lecturer in Sports Coaching at Ayrshire College, UK, having previously completed a PhD assessing mental toughness in Rugby Union. He is also Director of a sports performance consultancy, Athlete Focused. 

Victoria Penpraze is Senior Lecturer in Physiology and Sport Science at the University of Glasgow, UK. In a consultancy role she has more than 15 years’ experience providing sports science support and research within elite rugby, football and golf.

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Session Guides

Building on the material presented in Acceptance and Commitment Approaches to Athletes' Mental Wellbeing and Performance: The Flexible Mind, we have prepared 7 separate session guides to help practitioners put The Flexible Mind approach into action. 

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What the experts think

A range of diverse stakeholders including, but not limited to, sport and exercise psychologists, certified mental performance consultants, nutritionists, sports scientists, coaches, physiotherapists, medics, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors will find The Flexible Mind approach interesting and relevant. The Flexible Mind approach has been well received by mental health experts and performance specialists alike.

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