Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Shown to Improve Well-being in Athletes

12 Mar 2024
5 min read
Authors – Vedika Jogani

A recent graduate from Ithaca College with a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Mental Performance, Vedika Jogani is OMP’s Product and Content Manager.

Ever wondered how young athletes handle the pressure of juggling academics, sports, and the challenges of navigating their adolescence?

How do these athletes tackle stress, and is there a secret playbook for them?

A 2023 study done in the United Kingdom showed that a six-week cognitive behavioral intervention including stress mindset, ABC thinking, self-compassion and imagery was able to enhance athlete’s psychological well-being and perceived performance.

The study uses these approaches rooted in the Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy approach.  

Stress Mindset

Recent research explores how individuals’ stress mindset—viewing stress as either enhancing or debilitating—shapes outcomes.

A positive “stress-is-enhancing” mindset correlates with better psychological and physical health, coping behaviors, and performance in athletes.

Conversely, a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset increases the risk of burnout and negative affect.

Targeting stress mindset may hold promise for enhancing psychological well-being and performance in athletes. 

Irrational beliefs

A concept called the Theory of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes (TCTSA-R), looks at how our beliefs influence how we feel and perform.

Imagine you face a challenge (A), and based on your beliefs (B), it affects how you feel and act (C).

If your beliefs are flexible and realistic, it’s usually good for your well-being and performance.

But if your beliefs are rigid and unrealistic, it can lead to negative feelings and affect your performance, especially in sports.

For athletes, certain irrational beliefs, like feeling demanding or seeing yourself as a failure if you lose, can mess with their performance and well-being.

Instead, seeing stress in a more balanced way can lead to better responses in stressful situations.

So, looking at how athletes view stress, and their beliefs together can give us insights into their well-being and performance. 


Self-compassion, a powerful strategy, involves three pillars: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-kindness fosters understanding and acceptance in challenging situations, promoting a positive self-view.

Common humanity emphasizes that many individuals share similar feelings during stress, fostering connection.

Mindfulness encourages balanced thoughts and feelings, aligning with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

Applied in sports psychology, self-compassion is associated with reduced self-criticism and negative emotions, offering a valuable tool in promoting psychological well-being and performance under pressure. 


Imagery, involving all senses to pre-experience an event, has proven effective in enhancing stress-related outcomes.

Recent findings suggest that imagery can also improve stress mindset when combined with stress education.

This method helps individuals attach more helpful meanings to stress responses, aligning with the ABC thinking approach and providing a sense of control in situations where changing the event isn’t possible. 

In conclusion, this study used a multimodal cognitive-behavioral intervention, delivered toward the end of the competitive season in six one-hour group workshops, aimed to enhance young athletes’ psychological well-being and perceived performance.

The intervention incorporated education and reappraisal, focusing on stress mindset, irrational beliefs, self-compassion, and imagery.

Results showed that this comprehensive approach could be effective in fostering adaptive views about stress and improving athletes’ mental well-being.  



Read more related blogs below


To start your journey to an improved mental game and to get access to hours of content from some of the best minds in sport, download the Optimize Mind Performance App now.


For the Organization

Get in touch with our sales team to get your organization involved today.


For the Athlete

Download the Optimize Mind Performance
app today.