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Leadership Spotlight Q&A: Amy Gooding, PsyD, on Treating Athletes

amy gooding

Can you tell us a little bit about your background in providing specialized treatment for athletes and how it shaped your career today?

I received my Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) with a concentration in Sport Performance from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA. While attending La Salle University, I played Division I softball. My experience as a lifelong athlete helped shape my interest in the challenges that athletes face on and off the field.

In addition to providing evidence-based psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, I offer specialized treatment for athletes at all levels within the program (beginners to elite). I have extensive training in cognitive-behavioral therapy and its application to the eating disturbances and the psychology of sports. My experience in these areas helped focus my career on the management of the unique needs of athletes with eating disorders as well as mood and anxiety disorders.

I provide trainings to mental health providers on the specialized treatment of athletes and eating disorders. I regularly present to local high school and college athletes, coaches and sports medicine staff on the identification, prevention and treatment of athletes and eating disorders. In addition, I provide ongoing consultation to university sports medicine staff on the mental health and well-being of student-athletes.

What makes ERC and Pathlight’s treatment approach unique and why did you join the team?

I started my career working for the Center for Eating Disorders in Baltimore and joined Eating Recovery Center in 2020 along with the rest of the team at the Center of Eating Disorders. I enjoy the comprehensive approach to treatment at ERC and Pathlight and am a proud member of the multidisciplinary treatment team. The commitment to empirically supported treatment combined with an individualized approach to the needs of every patient sets ERC and Pathlight apart from other programs.

What are some important considerations providers should know about when treating athletes?

When working with athletes it is important to include their athletic identity into your conceptualization, treatment and discharge plan, especially when working with your higher-level athletes. College and elite athletes have spent their lives playing their sport and not addressing this may be a disservice to treatment. They often have sports-related fears and dysfunctional beliefs which may be barriers to recovery. It is important to acknowledge these fears, provide psychoeducation when needed and engage an athlete’s extensive support network when needed. This network can include family, teammates, sports medicine staff, coaches and a host family, among others. In addition, it is imperative to point out that our athletes face the same challenges and life stressors as non-athletes in addition to those specific to their sport. Finally, while our elite athletes spend a significant amount of time training for their sport and consider it to be a substantial part of their identity, helping athletes develop an identity that is well balanced can be a very effective part of the treatment process - and may even improve performance. Of course, helping them to develop in all areas of life may also be helpful in relapse prevention or in the event of retirement from sport or injury.