Using Athletics To Promote and Support Mental and Emotional Health
If you were old enough to watch television in 1995, you may remember Nike’s commercial “If you let me play sports…”. The groundbreaking advertisement featured children providing facts and statistics on the many social, emotional and mental health benefits of playing sports as a child or adolescent. Over the last 20 years, research has documented the immense benefit of athletics for children and adolescents, including better grades, placing school as a higher priority, greater personal confidence and self-esteem, stronger peer relationships, more academically oriented friendships, an increase in family attachment, a greater quantity of interactions between children and parents, more restraint with regard to risky behaviors, higher levels of resilience to stress, lower levels of depression and anxiety and increased psychological functioning. Unfortunately, for adolescents who struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma and substance abuse, sports and athletics can often be one of the first activities to go, which often can increase negative mood states and decrease self-esteem and social relationships. For adolescents who seek outpatient or residential treatment for their anxiety, depression or trauma, athletic activities can be further deprioritized. Often, residential programs are unable to incorporate athletics or sports, causing more prolific athletes to have a strength marginalized by attending to treatment.
At Paradigm Malibu, we have designed a nationally recognized, state-of-the-art athlete’s program that allows male and female adolescents to reengage in athletics while in treatment. By partnering with a number of prolific professional and Olympic athletes, Paradigm provides adolescents with the opportunity to continue to remain active in working out, often in their sport of choice. Markus Rogan, one of Paradigm Malibu’s expert therapists, is the Director of Paradigm’s Young Athlete’s Program and incorporates athletics into all adolescent’s treatment plans who are interested in making athletics part of their recovery.
Young people at Paradigm get in touch with the athlete inside of them as they grab running shoes, yoga mats, surf boards and soccer balls and do what they may have struggled to allow themselves to do for a long time: play, move and enjoy the moment as it unfolds. Behind the scenes, the team of clinical professionals with vast experience working with professional athletes, has to do their best to stay in shape to keep up with them. “Often, when kids arrive at Paradigm Malibu, they cannot run a half mile without getting caught in a negative thought spiral. Within a month, they are sprinting up a mountain and I can barely keep up” says one therapist, a former professional athlete.