Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mental Health Specialists Interview Series: Dr. Steven Hamming, PsyD, Performance Anxiety

I would like to introduce Steven G. Hamming, PsyD, clinical psychologist, who has been in practice for over 20 years and treats performance anxiety. He is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing International Association (EMDRIA), the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS), and the American Group Psychological Association (AGPA). Dr. Hamming is also the founder of OP-Sports, where he specializes in sport-related performance coaching. His practice is located at 5060 Cascade Road, Suite D, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.


Kerry:
Dr. Hamming, briefly tell me about your work with performance anxiety.

Dr. Hamming:
My work focuses on “stage anxiety.” Sometimes the “stage” is literal for singers and actors, while at other times it is metaphorically meaning “the experience of being watched.” This includes athletes, trial lawyers, or anyone who stands in front of others and has to perform.

Kerry:
Is this a common problem?

Dr. Hamming:
Based on one’s own personal history and how one’s first “on stage” experiences were responded to (think ages 2-10) contributes greatly to the level of anxiety one is likely to have in their adult opportunities to be on stage.

Kerry:
Does this problem mainly occur with athletes or do you see it in other professional pursuits?

Dr. Hamming:
I see “performers” from a multitude of stages, but athletes are one of the primary groups that I treat.

Kerry:
How do you know if you or someone you know is experiencing this difficulty?

Dr. Hamming:
The way performance anxiety often shows up athletically is when there is a great disparity between the athlete’s abilities/performances in the practice setting and how his or her performance diminishes under the pressure of “show time.”

Kerry:
What is the best way to seek help?

Dr. Hamming:
It is best to find someone who clinically understands the nature of anxiety and who athletically understands the pressures and nuances of what is necessary to perform. Finding that fit will be the greatest help to understanding and addressing performance anxiety.

Kerry:
What does psychological treatment usually involve?

Dr. Hamming:
Treatment involves an exploration of what is happening during performances. This would include what is going in their mind and what is happening in their body at these stressful moments.

Treatment is not just an intellectual understanding but an integration of the mind with the body and learning to calm both of them down simultaneously. Treatment that only addresses the mind is like putting a band aid on the wound before treating it. It will help some, but not as thoroughly as what would be more useful.

Kerry:
How long does treatment take? And, what is the success rate?

Dr. Hamming:
The length of treatment varies greatly based on the needs of the individual, what his or her personal goals are, and also on how interwoven or complicated the anxiety is in the history of this person. I have seen athletes be greatly helped after one session and others have worked with me for several months before reaching their personal goals.

Kerry:
Have you had any special kind of training or experience to be qualified to perform this kind of counseling?

Dr. Hamming:
My training as a psychologist prepared me for working with anxiety. I have also attended a number of sports psychology conferences, trainings, and workshops to understand the intricacies of working with performers. Finally, I utilize my own competitive experiences, past and present, to help me understand experientially what is happening and what would be helpful ways to intervene.

Kerry:
If someone would like to seek this kind of treatment and they don’t live in the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area, how do they find a specialist in their area?

Dr. Hamming:
Google! Amazing how many times Google has the right answer!

Kerry:
Thank you, Dr. Hamming!

You can learn more about Dr. Hamming and his work at http://www.op-sports.com/. He also can be contacted by telephone at 616-459-0000 or by email: drhamming@sbcglobal.net.

2 comments:

  1. Good interview. Have you heard of Therapick? It's a new directory that has video interviews of therapists to figure out which one is right for you. I'd love to get Dr. Hamming's feelings on it. http://www.therapick.com

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  2. David, I had not heard of Therapick but have now examined it following your question. I think of it analogous to online dating. Therapick provides an avenue for an initial impression...but not enough information for such an important decision. Experiencing the therapist in the office for a handful of sessions along with questions regarding their theoretical orientation, what they believe makes therapy useful, what is their personal metaphor for viewing the therapy process, have they done their own therapy (key!), and other questions that fit your own needs should be addressed. Those will better help one choose than a "presentation" online.

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