My Work in Sport Psychology
Burt Giges, M.D.

Excerpts from Interviews  

Excerpts from an Interview at AASP, October 2001
(Conducted by Artur Poczwardowski)

•   What I’m looking for in my work with athletes is a very modest goal for every session – something that can help them make a small shift in how they see their own situation. It’s what I work towards – it doesn’t have to happen. If the goal is modest enough, it can be a first step that can help point them in the right direction.

•   I like to see beginnings. They can build confidence, because the person has their own experience in that first step.  I think that’s one of the essential elements of change…the realization that you can begin a change process. Most people are focused on outcome, end-result, and there’s a big difference to go from where they are now to where they want to be.  But it’s not such a big difference to go from where they are now to almost where they are now, with a slight difference. It helps them see they already know how to change.

•   One of the things I don’t enjoy when I’m consulting is getting lost, losing focus. And it happens in many interviews. At some point in the interview, I lose it. It can happen if something that’s said leads me to disconnect from the other person, or if I decide not to pursue something. And what I usually do to help me get it back, is to ask the person what’s going on for them right now, as a way of helping me re-connect to their experience in the moment.

•   It’s ok to start working with someone who doesn’t trust you. That is where they are. Too early a trust is probably not trustworthy. If somebody trusts you before they’ve had much to do with you it’s probably a fantasy, a wish, or an idealization of you.

•   If you have too fixed an idea of what you can do for someone, you might miss creative opportunities to do something different.

•   I was once asked by a woman in a group “Why don’t you get frustrated if we don’t improve?” I said, “Because my primary satisfaction comes from what I do, not from what you do.” And she said, “Don’t you care about us?”  And I replied, “Yes I do, but you asked why I don’t get frustrated.”


Excerpt from AASP Newsletter, 21, 1, Winter/Spring 2006, p. 5-6

AASP: What advice do you have for students entering the field?

BG: To borrow from Zen teaching: When being a student, just be a student. Be as fully a student as you can be. Soak up new information, whether it matches your prior ideas or not. Be open to differences as an expansion of your knowledge, rather than a threat to your beliefs. Learn from teachers, coaches, books, journals, fellow students, athletes, and especially from your own experience.

Being an excellent student is different from being an excellent consultant, teacher, or researcher. As a student, your excellence is in your dedication and  commitment to learning, and in your acceptance of what you have not yet learned or cannot yet do. Be mindful of your long-term development as a professional, and consider every step of the way as preparation for the next step.


Excerpts from Presentations 

Excerpts from The 19th Annual Conference on Counseling Athletes, “Winning in Sport and Life,” Springfield College, June 21-23, 2002.

•    The essence of winning is "I feel good about myself." The essence of losing is "I don't feel good about myself." So then the question becomes "Can this essence of feeling good about myself be obtained in other ways?"

•    In our culture, failure is not a description, it is a judgment. Failure carries the implication that we are not good enough.

•    When something is in the way of your excellence, when there is a barrier to your performance, can it be changed, or removed?

•    What's in your environment or experience that needs to be recognized, set
aside in some way, and eventually transcended?


Excerpts from the Workshop on Change    

•    When people say, "I'll never change," what do they mean? They might mean, "I'll never be able to change my behavior or my feeling." They don't usually mean, "I'll never change my awareness." And they may not realize that a change in awareness is often the first step in changing other aspects of their experience. It can be seen relatively early in the change process, and can be the beginning of a realization that they can change.

•    When people have difficulty deciding which of two alternatives to choose, it is often helpful to have them imagine that they have already decided on one. It doesn’t matter which one they do first. Have them live for the next few days or hours (depending on the situation) as if that is what they are going to do. Ask them to pay attention to what feelings, thoughts, and wants come in to their awareness. Then have them switch to the other choice, and live with that one for the same amount of time. Then have them compare and discuss the two experiences. Usually, they will be able to recognize the one that is stronger.


Excerpts from Workshop on: Self-Awareness for Sport Psychology Practitioners.

•    Self-awareness provides an opportunity for change. Most often, we become aware of a problem behavior after it occurs. When this happens, we may say "I see that I did that." With a commitment to change and repeated awareness of the behavior, awareness begins to occur earlier. When it is present during the behavior, we may say "I see that I am doing that right now." With additional time and practice, awareness moves earlier in time, until it is present before the undesired behavior occurs. At this point, we can say "I see that I am about to do that." When awareness precedes the behavior, a choice can be made to behave differently. This is an opportunity for change and is represented by the statement "I can do it differently."

•    Everything we do is connected to something we want.

•    What we want is not only what we don’t have.

•    When a person answers a question with “I don’t know,” they may mean “I don’t know, so let’s go on to something else.” You may be able to help them change that to, “I don’t know, so let’s look further to find out.”


Excerpts of Reports of Meetings  

AASP Newsletter, 22, 1, p. 2, Spring 2007

Excerpt from a Report of the Joint Commission on Sports Medicine & Science Meeting

Burt Giges really caught the attention of attendees with his session. In his humble, gracious but compelling manner, Burt gave a presentation on “Common Ground: Where Sport Psychology and Sports Medicine Meet.” Because his co-presenters were unable to join him (due to last minute emergencies) despite his careful planning, Burt responded like the flexible, resilient “champion” that he is. He filled the open slot by conducting a “live interview with an injured athlete.” In this session, Burt, center stage with his client, showcased his brilliant interviewing and counseling skills. It was done in an “unconditional positive regard” highly effective manner. The contrast between stimulating but didactic presentations on the physical aspects of sports (injury, equipment, heat stroke, etc) or discussion of programs (concussion, drugs in sport, etc.) and Burt’s psychosocial assessment and relationship building skills, illuminated our “profession at its best.” Kirsten and I were so proud to remind the enthralled attendees that this capable physician, psychiatrist and sport psychologist “extraordinaire” is AASP’s President-Elect!
                                         Aynsley Smith, Mayo Clinic, 
                                         Research Director, Sports Medicine Clinic,   
                                         AASP Professional Standards Division Head

British Psychological Society, Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology,
Sport and Exercise Psychology Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 February 2006

Excerpt from a Report on the AASP Conference, Vancouver, 2005

Burt Giges, Clinical Professor of Psychology at Springfield College, is something of an AASP legend – who not only provides thought-provoking workshops, which regularly explore sport psychology consultancy practice issues through the use of real life examples, but is also often seen getting down on the dance floor at the conference banquet each year! During this year’s conference, he worked with a volunteer from the audience to explore the consultant’s self-awareness during consultancy. Working with the volunteer through a personal issue they had identified, Professor Giges offered personal self-reflections at intervals during the consultancy through verbalized thoughts and feelings. This approach allowed the audience to walk with the consultant along the path of the consultancy, making connections between the volunteer’s remarks and the consultant’s responses, and in so doing gaining an insight into why a consultant had chosen the interventions strategies adopted.
                                                                                      Kate Goodger

International Society for Sport Psychiatry Newsletter, January 1996

Excerpt from a Report on the AASP Conference, New Orleans, 1995

    Burt Giges is a fellow sport psychiatrist from Westchester County, NY, an avuncular former psychoanalytic psychotherapist and researcher, now preferring cognitive-affective interventions. He gave a superb Keynote Address on “How People Change.” It was a wonderful synthesis of his own ideas, filtered through the concepts and theories of others, to provide a blueprint for the field of performance enhancement. Giges would prefer to emphasize a more general improvement, avoiding the one dimensional quality of the previous term; and thereby including alternative, equally successful outcomes, such as personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or even less involvement in sport, if this is a positive change for the individual.

His lecture dealt with five aspects of intentional change, which was defined as change that was not of a developmental nature, and not dependent on external factors. These included the content, timing, and process of change, as well as resistance to change, or the “why not” of change. In the fifth aspect, he described his own thoughtful approach to helping sport psychologist consultants help others achieve their goals. He believes that, as a process, paradoxically, “changing is fundamentally similar to staying the same.” That is, if any pattern of behavior requires continuous reinforcement, then the ability to maintain sameness can automatically hone powerful skills which may be harnessed for change. Another useful concept for sport psychology consultants that he imparted was a quote from psychoanalyst Allen Wheelis, “If responsibility for change is attributed to others, then what we are left with that is ours is resistance.”
                                                                                  Ian Tofler