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Rory Mack, Jeff Breckon, Joanne Butt, and Ian Maynard

This study explored the use of motivational interviewing (MI) in sport contexts by experts in that approach. Specifically, the purpose was to understand which aspects of the MI approach are deemed valuable for working in sport and to begin to understand how these aspects are best applied. Nine practitioners participated in semistructured interviews, and thematic analysis identified themes related to core and subcomponents of MI (e.g., relational spirit, technical microskills, applied tools, and the MI communication styles continuum). Additional themes relate to integrating MI with other interventions, the challenges of working with athletes (e.g., mandated attendance, ambivalence about change), and unique aspects of working in sport contexts (e.g., frequency, duration, and location of contact points). The participants also outlined essential ingredients for an MI training curriculum for practitioners in sport. This counseling approach appears to have valuable relational and technical components to facilitate the building of the therapeutic alliance, enhance athlete readiness for change, and support delivery of action-oriented interventions in applied sport psychology.

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Rory Mack, Jeff Breckon, Joanne Butt, and Ian Maynard

The purpose of this study was to explore how sport and exercise psychologists working in sport understand and use motivational interviewing (MI). Eleven practitioners participated in semistructured interviews, and inductive thematic analysis identified themes linked to explicit use of MI, such as building engagement and exploring ambivalence to change; the value of MI, such as enhancing the relationship, rolling with resistance and integrating with other approaches; and barriers to the implementation of MI in sport psychology, such as a limited evidence-base in sport. Findings also indicated considerable implicit use of MI by participants, including taking an athlete-centered approach, supporting athlete autonomy, reflective listening, demonstrating accurate empathy, and taking a nonprescriptive, guiding role. This counseling style appears to have several tenets to enhance current practice in sport psychology, not least the enhancement of therapeutic alliance.

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Rory J. Mack, Jeff D. Breckon, Paul D. O’Halloran, and Joanne Butt

Clear reporting of the counseling approach (and theoretical underpinning) applied by sport psychologists is often missing, with a tendency to focus on intervention content rather than therapeutic processes and relationship building. Well-defined psychotherapies such as motivational interviewing (MI) can help fill this void and provide an underpinning counseling approach (in an athlete-centered manner) as a framework for delivering interventions such as psychological-skills training (PST). This article describes the role of MI as a framework on which PST sport psychology interventions can be mapped and delivered. The paper presents an athlete case study to explain the role of MI at each phase of the interaction. Robust, well-defined applications of MI in sport require further research, although evidence from other psychological domains suggests that it can be successfully blended into sporting contexts.

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Martin J. Turner, Gillian Aspin, Faye F. Didymus, Rory Mack, Peter Olusoga, Andrew G. Wood, and Richard Bennett

Practitioners in sport and exercise psychology tasked with service provision in any environment can decide which framework(s) they draw on to inform their applied work. However, the similarities and differences between psychotherapeutic approaches are underrepresented in current literature. Therefore, this paper brings together practitioners from 4 dominant psychotherapeutic approaches to address a specific hypothetical case. Four different cognitive-behavioral approaches are outlined: rational emotive behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, schema therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. Each practitioner outlines the particular approach and proceeds to address the case by covering assessment, intervention, and evaluation strategies that are specific to it. Similarities and differences across the approaches are discussed, and implications for practice are put forth. Finally, two other practitioners introduce motivational interviewing as an additional framework to foster the working alliance.