Can Hypnotherapy Help Golfers' Yips?

The yips is a very specific issue that can end careers, destroy hobbies, and lead to moments of pure frustration and exasperation. There is much advice about how to overcome the yips and hypnotherapy is not usually the first on the list, but I wanted to spread the word about what a powerful tool hypnosis can be. 

We will look at:

  • What causes the yips.
  • How hypnotherapy can help players.
  • What to expect in a session

What causes the yips?

Apparently, as much as 48 percent of all serious golfers will experience the yips in their career according to the Mayo Clinic. So, it will come as no surprise that there are many theories as to what brings on this dreaded condition. They fall into three main categories:

  1. For some, it is caused by a neurological condition that can cause muscle jerks, tremors, twitching, or a feeling of being locked or frozen. It might be caused by overuse and the repetitive movements needed in golf. Treatments include the use of Botox injections, acupuncture, muscle relaxants, or changing your grip.
  2. For others, it may be caused by a psychological issue where there is a negative thought pattern running through their minds. It has been noted that it can be more prevalent in players with many years of experience, perfectionists, or players who can become anxious. Once you recognise that there is an issue, the overthinking cycle can kick in. So now, every time you take the putter out, a voice will alert you to how badly you are going to hit the ball and how embarrassing it’s going to be when you miss. Guess what? You miss the hole.
  3. Maybe it’s a combination of both. You suffer from a neurological issue that affects your game, and before you know it the fear and anxiety has ramped way up. You are now back in a cycle of negative thinking regarding your abilities. 

How can Hypnotherapy help?

As a solution focused hypnotherapist, I help my clients use their own abilities and change their mindset to overcome the yips. As part of my training, I worked with Glenn Catley the World Champion Boxer in the super middleweight division. He used hypnotherapy to help him perform at his best on the night of his world title fight and, in fact, Glenn was so impressed that he retrained as a hypnotherapist. 

Often when a player is struggling to perfect their golf swing or putting, they focus on what could go wrong. This type of thinking is the precise reason why they have difficulties, it doesn’t help them improve. Sport is not only down to a person’s physical ability; it is about their mental attitude and beliefs. You often hear on the golf course: “I can hit the ball so well in practice, but, when it comes to a competition, my nerves take over.” They may have the physical ability, but that negative thought pattern can ruin a game.

I provide clients with an understanding, perspective, and a vision of how they can overcome issues. When people direct their thoughts towards what they would specifically like to be doing differently, then they should get a specific result.

Many top sportspeople use visualisation and breathing techniques to optimise their performance on the course. We know that English rugby union player Jonny Wilkinson used to regularly perform visualisation techniques before games. He explained how: “You are creating the sights, sounds, smells, the atmosphere, the sensations, and the nerves, right down to the early morning wake-up call and that feeling in your stomach. It helps your body, and mind, to get used to the pressure of the game.”

You may not be a top-class sportsperson but these techniques can be utilised at any level of sport. You can use this visualisation to rehearse the move, the swing, the pass, in your head and then notice the difference.

What to expect in a session.

So, we can see that there are different approaches within a hypnotherapy session. I help clients to reduce their negative thought patterns, build their confidence, and provide techniques that they can utilise on the course. I do this with a combination of visualisation, solution focused conversation, and lots of mental rehearsal.

Hypnotherapy is a talking therapy, but the hypnosis section in a session gives us a huge advantage, which can be not only pleasant but hugely beneficial to clients.


Gillian Forrester


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