#TuksSport: Q&A with Marteleze van Graan about her role at SEMLI and interest in performance enhancement

Posted on October 05, 2020

Marteleze van Graan is a Sport Psychologist at SEMLI, and registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a Counselling Psychologist in independent practice. She holds a BSocSci in Sport Psychology, BSocSci Honours, and MA Counselling Psychology with a specialization in Sport Psychology, all obtained at UP-Tuks.

In 2011, she was one of the psychologists for Team Gauteng at the SA Games, and twice in a row (2013 and 2014), she served as a team psychologist for Team Gauteng at the SA National Schools Championships, where she conducted individual sessions and group sessions.

Here, van Graan tells us more about her role, the importance of a Team Psychologist in sports, special interest in performance enhancement, hypnosis and wellness and advice to aspiring sport psychologists especially females.

1. What is your role as a Sport Psychologist at SEMLI all about?

My role at SEMLI is to provide assistance to athletes of different ages and different levels of sport. Some may require performance enhancement strategies such as dealing with pressure, whereas others might need therapy for anxiety, depression, trauma and relationships challenges. I also work with teams to ensure that the team can perform optimally.

2. You started as an intern at the Student Support Center of UP-Tuks, what are the key outs from that experience?

During my time at Tuks Student Support, I was introduced to Interactional Pattern Analysis (IPA) and this changed the way that I facilitate therapy. I enjoyed working with the staff at the Center and realized the importance of being open to continued learning.

3. Your areas of special interest are performance enhancement, hypnosis and wellness at SEMLI. Why so? What fascinates you about the three key areas?

Performance enhancement:  I have always been fascinated with the psychology of winning, for example, two athletes have the same level of fitness, nutrition and desire to win, yet only one of the athletes can perform under pressure.

Wellness: I believe that physical activity and mental well-being go hand in hand. In order for an individual to self-actualise, balance and a holistic approach are needed.

Hypnosis is a state of mind in which selective thinking is established and the critical faculty is bypassed. This simply means that change occurs on a subconscious level and it is a deep state of relaxation. Hypnosis is used to add to the therapeutic process. There is a stigma surrounding hypnosis, however, in my experience, it brings great relief to clients. I am an internationally accredited Clinical Hypnotist and a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists.

4. What is the importance of being registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a Counselling Psychologist?

The HPCSA’s function is to protect the public and to ensure that practitioners are qualified. It also ensures that practitioners work is evidence-based so as not to cause harm to the client. Personally, it means that I conduct myself in an ethical manner to ensure that my clients receive the best possible therapy within my scope.

5. Why did you decide to do your Master’s degree specializing in Sport Psychology?

I am passionate about sport and working with people is fulfilling. Sport psychology combines the best of both for me.  I also like the challenges that come with working in the sport context.

6. What is the importance of a Team Psychologist in sport?

My role as a sport psychologist within a team environment is to create a context where the team and athletes within the team can function optimally. At times, coaches will refer players and it is important that the coach and the athlete understand that what the athlete shares are confidential. My role will depend on the needs of the coach and the team.

7. From 2011 to 2014, you worked as a Team Psychologist during the SA Games and SA National Schools Championships, conducting individual sessions and group sessions. What was your overall experience?

Last year, I worked with the South African World Skills team and travelled with them to Kazan in Russia. The experience taught me to be flexible and that working with athletes prior to a competition or event is important as it allows me to get a better understanding of how they are likely to perform under pressure. The importance of working as part of a multi-disciplinary team was also invaluable.

8. What is your message to aspiring sport psychologists especially females?

It can be challenging to work in the sport environment when you are a female and also because there is still a misconception about sport psychology. I would suggest that an aspiring female sport psychologist tries to become an expert in her field and to build relationships with other health professionals.

For services of van Graan at SEMLI, reach out to her on 012 484 1749 (Work) or 071 682 4477 (Cell) & for more information about SEMLI, visit www.up.ac.za/sport-exercise-medicine-and-lifestyle-institute/

- Author Bhekani Bright Ndebele

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