How to Get in the Zone: Sports Hypnosis in Sports Psychology

Sports Hypnosis Can Get You In The Zone

Sports performance anxiety is an extremely frustrating experience for elite athletes.  Athletes generally tend to follow routines and rituals to maintain consistency.  As an athlete, when you experience a setback, it can leave you feeling out of sync.  Sports performance anxiety often develops during one of these setbacks, particularly when the dominoes start falling in the wrong direction.  But the dominoes can also fall in the right direction… big time.  This is where hypnosis in sports psychology, also known as sports hypnosis, can be very helpful.  Sports hypnosis is all about “how to get in the zone” – that rhythmic, concentrative focus in which kinesthetic movements become automatic and athletes hit peak performance.

Hypnosis is a state of consciousness that consists of focused attention (also known as ‘absorption’) and dissociation.  What surprises many people to learn is that everyone has experiences of going into naturalistic hypnotic trance states.  We all have moments where we’re really in sharp focus, whether positive or negative.  Even people with so called ‘attention-deficit’ issues are also capable of this, despite the misconceptions to the contrary, because over-focusing can also be prevalent with under-focusing.  Even daydreaming is a form of trance state – you’re just lost… or engrossed in your imaginative reverie.

Absorption is the same concept as being engrossed or ‘being in the zone.’  Yes, being in the zone is the same as being in trance.  Being in the zone is the same as being self-hypnotized!

So… how to get in the zone?

In sports hypnosis, what we do first is work with our clients to learn how to elicit a hypnotic state.  We teach you the methods of self-hypnosis necessary to get in this state consistently and easily.  Unlike popular myths and misconceptions, a state of hypnosis is NOT being out of it or unalert, or having someone do something to you like “put you under.”  It is a state of focused mental attention and flow physical state.  The flow physical state is often mistaken for relaxation.

The association most people have to hypnosis is a relaxed, eyes-closed state – but it doesn’t have to be.  Alert hypnosis (also known as ‘active alert hypnosis’) involves eyes wide open trance, and often entails physical movement.  This is the form of hypnosis that is often used in sports psychology and sports hypnosis for performance enhancement.  Remember, because hypnosis involves both heightened focused attention and dissociation, it does not have to occur in an eyes-closed or even relaxed state.  Oftentimes, kinesthetic rhythm can have a hypnotic quality to it.  So, for this reason, once in a state of hypnosis, we work with our clients on building flow kinesthetic rhythms.

Here is where the listening skill of a psychologist comes in.  We tailor our hypnotic suggestions to our clients based on their history, goals, and past positive experiences.  Anyone has the ability to get into a hypnotic state, but it is what you are told and tell yourself that really makes the difference.  Oftentimes, rather than trying to fix something that feels broken, the key is to accentuate and intensify the memory or belief of something that has gone right, been right, and felt right.  Once you can really vividly picture and feel a positive experience, it becomes easier to recreate.

Interested to learn more?  Talk with one of our expert therapists today and get started on a program that works for you.


Eric Spiegel, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and practice director of Attune Philadelphia Therapy Group.  He is the President of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) for 2018-2019, and has won numerous awards from ASCH, including their Early Career Achievement Award (2012).  Dr. Spiegel is the co-author of the book Attachment in Group Psychotherapy, published by the American Psychological Association.  He has also published journal articles and book chapters on subjects such as attachment therapy, hypnosis, group therapy, anxiety, trauma, and relationships.