Sports and Performance Psychology in Nashville

Are you an athlete or musical artist looking to move to the next level in your sport or craft? Does your profession call on you to entertain or engage an audience on stage, on camera, or on the field? Do you wish you could become more dynamic and maximize your potential? Would you benefit from someone who recognizes what you’re capable of, knows how to help you get there, and will hold you accountable? Whether you’re feeling stalled out in your career or looking for proactive pathways to better outcomes, sports and performance psychology could be the answer.

Professional athletes have been utilizing the methods of sports and performance psychology for years, but they aren’t the only ones who can benefit. Optimizing performance is also enormously valuable to musicians, actors, and other professional performing artists. Anyone facing a high-stakes athletic or artistic career where they use their skills under pressure stands to benefit from performance psychology. 

At Music City Psych, we provide expert therapy for musicians, athletes, and others in-person in Nashville and online wherever you are. You’ll work with our founder, David Pearl, LCSW. David has helped many athletes and performers, including:

  • Grammy-nominated producers and artists
  • Olympic athletes
  • Touring musicians
  • NCAA Division I athletes
  • Professional dancers

Whether you are an athlete or performer, Music City Psych is ready to help.

Meet in-person or online. We offer the option to meet with your therapist online. Video sessions are held through a HIPPA-protected platform.

A passion for performance psychology

Before founding Music City Psych in Nashville, David Pearl, LCSW, worked as a psychotherapist and performance coach at Union Square Practice in New York City. USP was co-founded by Dr. Jonathan Fader, former Director of Mental Conditioning for the New York Giants and previous team psychologist for the New York Mets. Using the techniques he learned from Dr. Fader, David has spent over a decade working with athletes and professional performing artists to enhance their practice routines, helping implement mindfulness practices to better their performance.

In his time at Union Square Practice, David observed that high-achieving people working across various artistic disciplines faced many of the same problems professional athletes face. Musicians and other performing artists encounter issues such as lack of motivation, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, and choking under pressure. So it followed naturally that the coaching techniques that enhanced performance for New York’s elite athletes crossed over successfully to other performance fields. By addressing the underlying psychology driving performance issues, David helps athletes and performance artists enhance their personal wellness and professional success.

David works with his clients to help them clarify their values and performance goals. Then, he incorporates targeted psychological practices to build healthy habits and minimize barriers to achieving those goals. As a performance coaching client, you’ll adopt regular mental exercises designed to cultivate mindfulness, rearrange unproductive thought patterns, and reorient yourself to approach your performance training from a place of calm awareness. As you build on this foundation, you’ll develop increased resilience and mental efficiency. These qualities ultimately manifest in more consistent performance results and enhanced personal and professional fulfillment.

Better performance = exercising your mind

How many hours a week do you set aside to train your body, voice, fingers, or facial expressions to execute when performance time comes? By contrast, how much time do you invest in addressing the psychological issues that affect your performance, including how you train? For most people, the psychological requirements of performing receive only the tiniest fraction of the attention given to the direct exercise of our performance techniques.

It’s easy to forget how much psychology plays in performance when we watch professional athletes seemingly operate confidently. At the same time, every sports fan has that experience of watching a game where the winner and loser were a foregone conclusion, until suddenly they weren’t. We were mesmerized in real time as an entire team of professional athletes sacrificed what should have been an easy win. We wonder how an entire sports team messed up so profoundly, all at once. Did overconfidence cause a lack of focus going into the game? Did tensions among the athletes compromise the team dynamic? Why couldn’t they pull themselves out of the downward performance spiral before it was too late?

Instead of asking why these larger-than-life figures sometimes crash and burn, we might reframe and ask, “How do they succeed so consistently most of the time?” The answer is that high-level athletes and performance artists master both the craft itself and the psychological techniques required to execute under pressure. Acquiring a state of mindfulness and presence going into our performance is as essential to its success as gaining the specific skills the performance showcases.

Whether your performance is suffering or you’re just looking to break through to the next level, performance coaching helps you address head-on the issues that affect – and possibly determine – your performance success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I a good candidate for sports and performance coaching?

Sports and performance psychology was originally developed to address the psychological issues of athletes, but the techniques and practices apply equally to musicians, actors, and other performing artists as well.

Regardless of where you perform, what you perform, or who your audience is, the psychological stresses and challenges of performance tend to fall into the same categories. And the performance coaching strategies that cultivate mindfulness and psychological resilience in athletes on the field likewise serve musicians and other performing artists as they approach the stage, camera, or recording studio. Wherever you’re at in your artistic or athletic career, if you’re ready to take your performance to the next level, then sports and performance coaching is likely to be a good fit for you.

Sports and performance psychology applies to the wide range of common problems faced by performing artists whose careers call for poise, confidence, and flawless execution on the spot. As with other therapeutic practices, sports and performance psychology looks underneath the surface to ask what’s throwing up barriers to our success. These underlying issues include:

  • lack of confidence: ongoing self-doubt, imposter syndrome, rejection sensitivity
  • perfectionism: unrealistic expectations, self-criticism, fear of failure
  • organizational issues: poor time management, inconsistent follow-through
  • burnout: overwhelm, demotivation, fogginess, falling behind, inability to focus
  • transition-based uncertainty: stress or anxiety related to new career frontiers
  • communication barriers: relational disjointedness with teammates or colleagues

Your coaching sessions are tailored to address your individual challenges. You might already sense or even be able to pinpoint some of these issues in your personal experience. 

You may feel your performance is suffering but don’t understand why. Or perhaps you are simply looking for that one extra boost to reach your performance goals. Whichever scenario describes you, performance coaching has you covered with a practical, incremental approach: identify the manifesting challenges, pinpoint the underlying issues, and develop targeted strategies to combat these issues. Whatever barriers or next frontiers you’re facing in your career, sports and performance coaching has helped performers in similar situations break through to the other side.

No, performance psychology operates as a complement to athletic and artistic performance training. An athletic, acting, or voice coach runs you through practice drills and gives you feedback and guidance on techniques as they watch you perform. A sports and performance coach is there to address the psychology underlying your performance: how your attitudes, beliefs, and thought patterns affect your ability to execute and optimize your performance.

As with other counseling and coaching practices at Music City Psych, performance coaching sessions are tailored to the individual. David offers clients a safe and non-judgmental space to bring any and all of their concerns about their performance. By getting to know you and asking careful questions about your challenges, he can understand which aspects of performance psychology apply to your situation. 

After learning about your specific values and priorities, David will work with you to develop targeted strategies to address the psychological barriers that are holding you back. You’ll receive practical exercises to implement in your daily life and during your performance training. At each coaching session, you’ll discuss recent progress and any setbacks, then adjust the strategy together to continue building towards success.

The structure of the coaching relationship creates a positive feedback loop for your ongoing growth. Regularly revisiting your goals, values, and priorities keeps you accountable and grounded. It also establishes a timeline documenting your progress to remind you of how far you’ve come and encourage you to celebrate your incremental successes. It’s harder to succumb to negative voices and discouraging thought patterns when you check in with a coach who keeps track of your performance growth.

The answer to this depends on the individual situation. Some clients might only attend a few sessions, but more typically, people see a performance coach for at least six months and often longer. If you’re interested in pursuing performance coaching, contact David for a consultation to discuss your situation and what a timeline might look like for you.

Yes and no. Many of the issues that affect our personal lives also affect our professional lives, so overlapping themes and patterns may appear in individual therapy and performance coaching sessions. The techniques of sports and performance psychology build off other psychological disciplines to address the individual barriers that impede optimal performance. 

A primary difference is that individual psychotherapy at Music City Psych takes a broad-based approach, guiding you to explore issues that range from work and family relationships to grief and loss, depression, trauma, anxiety, and so forth. Addressing these issues typically involves a deep look into an individual’s childhood and family of origin. Sports and performance psychology, on the other hand, is designed to target specifically the factors that are affecting the performance aspects of your career. It focuses on the present and near future, and the steps you can take right now to start enacting positive change.

David Pearl, LCSW, received his bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his master’s degree in social work from The Silver School of Social Work at New York University. He went on to practice sports and performance psychology at Dr. Jonathan Fader’s private practice in NYC. Dr. Fader coached professional athletes for the New York Giants and New York Mets, and David studied and applied these methods to coach both athletes and performing artists.

David’s prior career experience includes counseling individuals and families struggling with the impact of hematologic cancers at Mount Sinai Hospital. He also worked at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, delivering psychodynamically oriented counseling to both individuals and couples. David has formal training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy and Prepare/Enrich Premarital and Marital Counseling.

Drawing on this rich background, David now focuses his expertise on the interconnected specialties of performance psychology and executive coaching. He helps athletes, performance artists, and business leaders develop the key practices and habits that set them up for fulfillment in their professional careers.

Sports and performance coaching addresses the perennial challenges of individuals in performance careers. With performance coaching, you’ll begin to face key issues you may have been avoiding and learn defusion techniques to address the negative self-talk that keeps you in cycles of underperformance. Coaching guides you to clarify your values, connect to your sense of self, and become more present and grounded in the moment. 

As you master the essentials of mindfulness and self-awareness, it becomes easier to commit to practical action towards your performance goals. Building this solid psychological foundation increases your mental efficiency, fosters resilience, boosts self-confidence, and ultimately allows you to achieve the personal performance milestones you set for yourself.

Yes, we offer coaching sessions both in-person at the Music City Psych office in Nashville, Tennessee, and online to clients anywhere. For those in the Nashville area who prefer in-person sessions, our office is located near Belle Meade and Green Hills, with convenient access to The Gulch, Music Row, Hillsboro Village, Brentwood, and downtown Nashville.

Interested in Sports Psychology and Performance Coaching?

Contact Music City Psych to Get Started.