The power of ACT

ACT in Sport (Dark River) by James Hegarty and Christoph Huelsmann, reviewed by Dr Josephine Perry.

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Training) has been a hot topic in Sport Psychology for the last couple of years, with more and more sport psychologists training to use the approach. I find it suits many athletes well, as instead of trying to block or deny the pressure they feel to perform, ACT techniques help them acknowledge the difficulties which come from the sporting world and allow them to notice, accept, defuse and focus on what matters more to them. As a result I was really chuffed to see a book come out specifically on ACT in Sport. The book is authored by two New Zealand Clinical Psychologists who work in high performance sport so it comes with high credibility.

ACT is a tricky approach to teach within a book as it is so experiential. It needs to be done to be understood. We need to watch it in action to see its power. So, while the book is written to be used directly by athletes as well as psychologists, I am not sure it is accessible enough for most athletes. I felt that more case studies, worksheets or role-play scenarios would be needed to fully engage athletes. However, I do think it is of incredible value to trainee or qualified sport psychologists or psychologically informed sports coaches as a wonderful ‘how to’ guide to ACT within your own practice. In fact, the book would make a really nice introduction to ACT for any psychologist, whether or not in sport, the sport angle just gives it a helpful focus.

There is a lot of focus on mental and physical awareness – something which works well with athletes who are used to learning to read their bodies in their sport. I loved the way relevant academic studies were highlighted in an easy digestible way – it always adds some confidence as a practitioner to know there is a strong evidence base for the proposed ideas. I also really valued the troubleshooting section to help practitioners respond to resistance from clients.

While I already practice ACT I found some excellent new activities that I will be incorporating into my practice. The writing style meant I underlined many beautifully crafted phrases I want to remember. I fully recommend ACT in Sport for any Sport Psychologist wishing to use ACT in their practice.

-       Reviewed by Dr Josephine Perry, Performance in Mind

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