Oct. 3, 2022

Mental Health And Sports Psychology In The NBA With Dr. Alex Auerbach

Mental Health And Sports Psychology In The NBA With Dr. Alex Auerbach

Mental Health And Sports Psychology In The NBA With Dr. Alex Auerbach

Dr. Alex Auerbach is the Director of Wellness and Development for the Toronto Raptors. He joined the Toronto Raptors after serving as the Director of Clinical and Sport Psychology for the University of Arizona. Dr. Auerbach has worked with NCAA Division-I schools in the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12, and Conference USA.

Dr. Auerbach earned his doctoral degree in counseling psychology with a specialization in sports and performance psychology from the University of North Texas. He received a Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University and a Bachelor's in Business Administration from the University of Arizona.

Dr. Auerbach is a member of the American Psychological Association’s Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology) and Division 17 (Counseling Psychology), as well as the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Dr. Auerbach is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant, a Licensed Psychologist, and a member of the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry.

Most people often associate athletes as formidable forces due to their excellent performances in their sports. But like any human being, athletes also have a soft side to bear. All aspects of their life need care. 

Sports psychologists address the mental health conditions of athletes. In this episode, John welcomes Dr. Alex Auerbach, the director of wellness and development for the Toronto Raptors. 

As a sports psychologist, Alex helps athletes cope with all issues that they need to overcome to reach their peak performance. Whether these issues include pressures involving their careers or some personal dilemmas that hinder them from achieving their goals, he makes sure that athletes deal with these aspects with mindfulness and self-regulated learning. 

His background in football has made him more empathetic toward what professional athletes are dealing with in the sports arena. His educational background is also aligned with his passion. He received his doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Sport and Performance Psychology from the University of North Texas. 

He is also a member of the United States Olympic Committee Sports Psychology Registry and the American Psychological Association Division 7. 


02:53 Dr. Alex Auerbach got involved with sports psychology by focusing on his passion. 
05:13 NBA has a wellness program. 
07:33 What does Alex’s day-to-day look like?
09:27 What is sports psychology?
12:20 What is the best advice for athletes?
15:11 What is self-regulated learning?
17:40 What does the United States Olympic Committee Sports Psychology Registry do?
18:40 What is Alex’s advice for professionals aiming for a career in sports psychology?
24:40 The environment influences human behavior. 
28:43 Alex shares his self-care tips. 

Additional Resources

Reach out to Dr. Alex Auerbach: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexauerbach/ 

Rate the show: If you enjoyed this episode, please consider providing an honest rating of the show here www.mentalhealthtodayshow.com/reviews/new 

Your review will really help the show reach more people - thank you! 

Learn more about John Cordray at www.johncordray.com 

Disclaimer: The Mental Health Today Show is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as therapy. If you are seeking therapy, please contact a licensed therapist for help.

Support the show


[00:00:00] John Cordray: Have you ever watched a professional sport and wondered? Hmm. I wonder if there's somebody that helps them with their mental health. Have you thought about that with the NBA? Well, today I have a special guest who is a sport psychologist and works right now for the Toronto Raptors. And I can't wait to tell you about and introduce you to.

[00:00:26] John Cordray: The title of this episode is mental health and sports psychology in the NBA with Dr. Alex aback. Coming right up. 

[00:00:35] John Cordray: Welcome back to the mental health today. Show my name is John Cordray and I'm a licensed therapist and the host of this show.

[00:00:42] John Cordray: And I'm very, very happy that you're here to join us. And I have a very special guest and his name is Dr. Alex a. He is the director of wellness and development for the Toronto Raptors. He joined the Raptors after serving as a director of clinical and sports psychology. [00:01:00] For the university of Arizona and Dr.

[00:01:03] John Cordray: Aback has worked with the NCAA division one schools in the PAC 12 ACC, big 12, and the conference USA. Dr. Alback earned his doctoral degree in counseling psychology with a specialization in sports in performance, psych. From the university of north Texas, he received a master's in business administration, El Sal Regina university, and a bachelor in business administration for the university of Arizona.

[00:01:33] John Cordray: Dr. AACH is a member of the American psychological Association's division 47 exercise and sports psychology and division seven teen counseling and psychology as well as the association of applied sports psych. Dr. AACH is a certified mental performance consultant, a licensed psychologist, and a member of the United States Olympic committee sports psychology registry.

[00:01:59] John Cordray: [00:02:00] Wow. That is a big bio, Dr. Alex. Thank you. And welcome to the show. 

[00:02:05] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Thank you for having me and had I known you were gonna go through all three paragraphs. I might have trimmed it. It's an honor to be here. 

[00:02:12] John Cordray: well, you know, there's just a lot about you that I, I just have to let everyone know who you are. 

[00:02:18] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Well, I appreciate it.

[00:02:19] Dr. Alex Auerbach: I appreciate it. 

[00:02:21] John Cordray: well, I wanna get right to it. And I want to ask you, let's just talk a little bit about your experience. Wow. Like I said, there's three paragraphs of your bio full of a lot of experience in psychology in sports. And so tell me a little bit about why, why did you get involved in that in the first place?

[00:02:40] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah. So gosh, it started even before I became a psychologist. So when I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go to college and really nailing down at the time at the end of my senior year of high school, what I thought my career could be, I was dead set on being a football coach. And so I made the decision to go to [00:03:00] university of Arizona and large part because they were the only institution that would allow me to work with the football program.

[00:03:05] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So I spent three years there and then graduated and took a full-time coaching job and really struggled with that first full-time job. It was just different than what I had anticipated. I was finding that I wasn't spending the time on things that really filled me up as much as I'd like to. But I was trying to figure out like it wasn't sports.

[00:03:29] Dr. Alex Auerbach: That was the problem. It wasn't the environment. That was the problem. It was more like what's my fit with this profession and with this role. And so I started to think about what might exist in the same space. That gives me a bit more of what fills me up and landed in psychology. Right. I loved building relationships with the players.

[00:03:49] Dr. Alex Auerbach: I had the chance to work with and have kept in touch with several players. I coached all the way back in 2011 and. Decided really like psychology might be the place where I could get more of that [00:04:00] relationship building and more of that opportunity and spend my time on something that I felt more deeply connected to and more passionate about.

[00:04:07] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so when I got my PhD at north Texas, like you mentioned, and then moved around through graduate school and then finally came back to Arizona. So where I did my undergrad, I ended up having the opportunity to ultimately take over the mental health and mental performance services for about 500 student athletes there.

[00:04:24] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And then in 2019 and into 2020, I had the opportunity to join the Toronto Raptors. And it's been an incredible experience, a unique time to join a new organization, obviously with the start of the pandemic. And the beginning of the bubble, you know, in my very first year has been kind of a wild ride, but it's been fun.

[00:04:43] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many incredible people in some pretty dynamic 

[00:04:49] John Cordray: environments. I would say, so probably something that most people probably don't realize that there actually is a wellness program [00:05:00] within the, the NBA. Does every NBA team have a wellness program?

[00:05:06] John Cordray: Yeah. 

[00:05:07] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So a few years ago, the NBA had a big push, you know, in response to some players speaking out about mental health. The NBA is tremendous in their resourcing, the players, and trying to meet their needs. They decided to essentially create a plan to integrate mental health services. Into every MBA organization.

[00:05:28] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So every organization's actually required to have a therapist in some capacity for a minimum of, I believe it's eight hours a month, you know? And so obviously teams vary to the extent that they've integrated mental health services. But by and large, you know, most organizations are incredibly committed to the mental health of their players and providing these wellness services to their players.

[00:05:53] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And, and I think for a lot of places too, it's starting to trickle into coaches and staff as well, which is excellent. There are a much [00:06:00] smaller subset of teams who have someone like myself, who's working full time for an organization and constantly thinking about the w. Health and wellness of our players, coaches, and staff.

[00:06:12] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And that's one of the reasons I'm here is I had the opportunity to join a really dynamic leadership group who had a clear vision for the way these services could benefit, not just the players, but the entire organization, and really wanted to make wellness a more central piece of what it meant to be healthy and high performing.

[00:06:29] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And I, I think that trend is gonna continue. The NFL has a pretty similar rule, major league. Baseball's done a really good job integrating mental health and mental performance service. I hear about a week. It seems so with hockey catching up slowly but surely 

[00:06:44] John Cordray: well, that's really good to know as a therapist myself, and I think a lot of times as a spectator and even with the celebrities, we don't realize that these people who are in the spotlight and looked up to, we don't [00:07:00] realize that they struggle with mental health as well.

[00:07:03] John Cordray: And I'm just really, really happy to hear the emphasis of the NBA. Really requiring a wellness program. And that's fantastic in the Toronto Raptors, having you as a full time on their staff. That's amazing. And so I'm really interested to hear Alex that, what does your day to day look like? 

[00:07:23] Dr. Alex Auerbach: It's a funny question because no, no days are the same so, you know, it, it depends on where we are.

[00:07:30] Dr. Alex Auerbach: The season and, and for us, you know, obviously the main portion of the basketball season is October to April. And so, you know, day to day looks like observing practice, participating in meetings, working individually with, you know, players, coaches, and staff, providing feedback from sort of the high level organizational overview about things we might do.

[00:07:52] Dr. Alex Auerbach: To facilitate, you know, basic health and wellness practices ranging from, you know, improving sleep schedules to [00:08:00] improving our schedule overall to maintain some consistency. So it's kind of a, a holistic, you know, three level matrix as the way I think about it. I work at the organizational team and individual level on prevention, intervention, and post intervention.

[00:08:15] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so day to day everything, you know, circles around one of those boxes really, and trying to provide the best quality care and support that I can for our organization. And then in the off season, I have the opportunity to be a part of our draft process, which is incredible. And I've got the opportunity to do things like go to summer league and, you know, watch our young players transition into the NBA.

[00:08:38] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And that schedule looks different than, than the normal day to day of the season. And of. Playoffs are a little different than the regular season. So there is no two days are the same. There's no like true day to day. I can map out for you, but in a, you know, in a vacuum or in a really small snapshot, it actually looks a lot like other jobs, except for those in NBA, basketball practice, thrown in the 

[00:08:57] John Cordray: middle and really [00:09:00] tall guys.

[00:09:00] Dr. Alex Auerbach: That's right. Really tall guys. I'm like one of the shortest people that's walking around the building. So it's a lot of looking up you're right. 

[00:09:08] John Cordray: That's great. So everyone knows about mental health but not so much about sports psychology. So can you tell us a little bit about what that is and specifically, how do you apply that into the NBA?

[00:09:23] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah, so, you know, sports psychology kind of grew out of counseling psychology and the strengths based sort of foundation of counseling psychology. Plus this sort of exercise psychology and kinesiology space, and it's merged into this sort of full spectrum of care ranging from treating mental health concerns.

[00:09:48] Dr. Alex Auerbach: If you're a licensed clinical provider, all the way to helping promote thriving and flourishing and peak performance for. Everyone involved in these [00:10:00] organizations. And so the way I think about the services I provide is, is like I mentioned, it's a full spectrum of care with a unique set of skills for a really unique, special population.

[00:10:15] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And what I mean by that is, you know, I don't believe that the same. The same way that you and I, you know, from our training might think about things like anxiety or depression is not necessarily the experience of an NBA player or professional athlete when they're experiencing anxiety and depression.

[00:10:36] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And what I mean by that is like, you know, typically if you're working with someone in the general population who might be struggling with something like a depressed mood, some simple things you might suggest would be, you know, get some exercise, socialize. You know, go outside those sorts of things and our players in any professional sport and college sport, they're already doing those things, right.

[00:10:57] Dr. Alex Auerbach: They all exercise, they're all around their team. [00:11:00] And so it's a different set of parameters you're working with that. And so I think what ends up happening, or what has happened is sports psychology is carved this really kind of unique niche around understanding the, the dynamics of sport and how that plays into.

[00:11:17] Dr. Alex Auerbach: The emergence of mental health concerns. And then the other piece of sport, which is really trying to promote peak performance because the, you know, end outcome we're all seeking is winning. And so I think sports psychology has sort of tried to figure out how do we deal with the full range of the human experience from those mental health concerns in this unique context, all the way to the unique performance demands of this unique context?

[00:11:45] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Well, that's, that's 

[00:11:46] John Cordray: really cool. You had talked about performance psychology. And with these athletes who are performing at the top of their, of their game and not only do they have to be physically fit, [00:12:00] they have to be mentally fit. What would be a few things that you would tell an athlete? Somebody in on the to rental Raptors would say, what would be something that you would tell them just for mental fitness?

[00:12:13] John Cordray: And you mentioned. Eating and getting enough sleep. Are there other specific things that you would tell high performing athlete? 

[00:12:25] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah. So for me, there's kind of a foundational set of principles that I sort of rely on to, to establish a, almost a baseline of mental fitness. So those things for me are, you know, sleep and kind of general wellness practices fall in one bucket, right?

[00:12:41] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Like eating well, sleeping, well, moving your body, getting outside these things that we know are helpful for people just maintaining a general sense of, of health and wellness. Then there are, you know, sort of extensions of the wellness model. That's kind of emerged in sport, are looking at things like [00:13:00] managing setbacks and resilience.

[00:13:03] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Relationships and social support and team dynamics, managing practice, which I know sounds sort of funny from like a mental fitness perspective, but really figuring out like, how do you optimize the time you're spending, honing your craft so that it feels rewarding and fulfilling and is a place where you can kind of constantly improve.

[00:13:23] Dr. Alex Auerbach: How do you manage time effectively? How do you manage your professional responsibilities effectively? And then we start to think of some of the, I guess the more like core psychological skills that, that are part of this would be things like, you know, mindfulness managing your internal dialogue, figuring out how to best optimize your energy.

[00:13:42] Dr. Alex Auerbach: These are all things that I see as sort of foundational to the work that we do and helping, you know, any athlete really be high performing from a foundational place of being well. And happy to unpack any of those a bit more, but those are some of the sort of key pieces I see. [00:14:00] Fitting into that baseline mental fitness model.

[00:14:03] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah. 

[00:14:04] John Cordray: Yeah. And so I'm really curious about what you said about the practice and trying to get in the optimal time, because a practice, you know, most of us just think, well, you just go and you shoot some, some hoops and, and you run around a little bit and you're done. But that's not that easy. That's not that simplistic with a professional team.

[00:14:27] John Cordray: So what are some things when, when it comes to helping them mentally prepare and work through when it comes to practice? 

[00:14:36] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah, I, I think we all have things we're practicing. Right. And so I think a lot of the principles that work for athletes might work for all of us, but for me, you know, practice is really about.

[00:14:48] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Learning, but it's also about, you know, in my world, like skill acquisition and motor movement acquisition. Right. And so when I'm thinking about practice with the players, I'm really thinking primarily about [00:15:00] self-regulated learning. And what that means is you're sort of have some self-awareness, you have a goal, you monitor your progress toward that goal.

[00:15:08] Dr. Alex Auerbach: You evaluate your progress and you adjust that goal repeated. So that you're maximizing what you're working on in practice. And it's, it's really common. Like for everyone really like to have the experience of going through the motions, especially when we're doing something that feels really familiar to us.

[00:15:24] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so for like an NBA player who's in their fifth year, let's say they've probably practiced basketball for 20,000 hours. And so taking shots sort of becomes routine. Sometimes practice can become routine. And for me, you know, one place I think we can really maximize their time and, and get a high ROI for the work they're putting in is in leveraging that self-regulated learning to make practice better.

[00:15:50] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So I think that's, that's one critical piece. I think helping players manage their focus and attention during practice is really important, obviously. [00:16:00] You know, for any of us, right. What's happening in our personal lives, tends to bleed into our professional lives a little bit and vice versa, especially when you're a high performer, you know, for these guys, basketball is, is what their world revolves around right now.

[00:16:13] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so anything that's happening, you know, at work will go home and vice versa. And so figuring out how we can. You know, effectively get into practice, be present for practice and, and maximize that I think is also a really, really important skill and an important piece of making sure this works for them because we don't want practice to become.

[00:16:35] Dr. Alex Auerbach: A place where players are feeling like they're not improving. I mean, we all have kind of a fundamental motivational need to see some improvement in mastery. And this is just one place for us that we can really control and fine tune that. Right. And we can't control the outcome of every game. We can't control.

[00:16:52] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Injuries and some of these other things, but that tends to be where we're measured. And so I think it's important to shift, focus back to practice where we can [00:17:00] feel that sense of, of mastery over our craft and kinda keep working on how we be the best that we can be in a controlled environment. 

[00:17:08] John Cordray: Ah, that's fantastic.

[00:17:09] John Cordray: The best that we can be in a controlled environment. I like that a. So I wanna switch gears just for a little bit, for a moment from the NBA into the Olympics. Cause I read in your bio that you're a member of the United States, Olympic committee, sports psychology registry. What exactly is that? What does that mean?

[00:17:30] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah, that's a really cool kind of thing that the us O P C has put together to provide a bunch of resources for Olympic athletes who are spread out across the country. And so they have a couple different requirements to be a part of that, that registry, but it's a really cool way of meeting unique needs of, of Olympic athletes.

[00:17:50] Dr. Alex Auerbach: I would say, you know, the, the us O P C is growing exponentially right now in your mental health services, which has been incredible to see. So I'm not sure what [00:18:00] the, the fate of that registry is as they grow their team, but it's, it's a cool thing to have exposure to. Oh, that's great. 

[00:18:08] John Cordray: What would you say to somebody who.

[00:18:13] John Cordray: Trying to figure out what they want to do with psychology. Maybe they want to become a psychologist, but they might be interested in sports psychology. What would be something that, that you would say to encourage them to pursue. 

[00:18:29] Dr. Alex Auerbach: That's a wonderful question. I'm so happy. You're asking this because sports psychology as a field right now is really exploding.

[00:18:36] Dr. Alex Auerbach: You know, I just mentioned the Olympic committee, obviously, and it's happening in college athletics at a seemingly outrageous pace from the outside, looking in, in a really cool way. You know, these major, major institutions are adding practitioners left and right. It seems. And so it's a great time for people who want to become sports, psychologists to be looking into joining the field.

[00:18:57] Dr. Alex Auerbach: But I think sports is sort of a place [00:19:00] where we have over indexed historically on past experience and probably not relied enough on actual competence and skill to measure how good someone is at their job. And so what I mean by that is like, you'll see it a lot of places, you know, to be a coach. One of the primary ways we determine whether or not you're worthy of being a coach is if you played the.

[00:19:22] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Not really whether or not you're a good teacher or whether or not you build good relationships or can create a healthy culture and sports psychology, I think has done a good job of staying away from that. But sometimes there can be, you know, a bit of an illusion that that's like the easiest way in. And I actually think, you know, to get directly to your question, the single best thing anyone can do, if they wanna become a sports psychologist is focus on being a great clinician.

[00:19:47] Dr. Alex Auerbach: You know, just like the rest of the work that all mental health providers do and behavioral health providers are doing. It starts with a foundation of great clinical skills. It starts with the foundation of building healthy relationships and using those [00:20:00] relationships to help people grow and change. And that's no different in this context than it would be in any other mental health context.

[00:20:06] Dr. Alex Auerbach: But I think, you know, admittedly our field, the sports psychologist does have a bit of allure and kind of like flashy appeal to it. And so sometimes it can seem like that stuff is maybe not as important because we're also working with teams and we're dealing with problems that are maybe unique to this context.

[00:20:27] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And I would just say to not take that for granted, right. To do the work, to become a really solid clinician and to focus on that first, because that's what keeps you safely employed and, and really illustrates your value. So that's one. And then I think the second thing is to, you know, figure out kind of where in this.

[00:20:45] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Space, that's pretty wide open. You really wanna spend your time. I mean, there's jobs like mine, certainly, but there are even sports psychology jobs working with high school athletes or working with tactical military units. And so there's so much space for people who [00:21:00] want to be a part of this field and to do this work, to contribute at a high level.

[00:21:04] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And I think it then means that people have the opportunity to really find where they fit and what brings them the most joy. And to double down on that and pursue. I 

[00:21:13] John Cordray: think that's really encouraging to hear that sports psychology is really starting to take off. Cause I think there's a lot of people, a lot of students who are wanting to pursue psychology that are also very interested in sports and to be able to combine the two could be a dream job for someone, what you just mentioned about getting back to the basics, fine tuning your clinical skills is number one.

[00:21:38] John Cordray: And I like that. That's very, very important. So last question here, or, or getting towards the end here, what would be something that you would like to talk about or to share in your field? Because I would imagine that you probably know other psychologists in a different MBA team, [00:22:00] what would be something that you would like to leave my audience?

[00:22:06] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Oh, man, this is a high pressure question that, that you're throwing in here. Can I give you a few things to have to pick one? Nope. Get 'em all okay. I'm gonna try to go with maybe like the three or four things that I think are most important for us as a field as we move forward, but I think are relevant to sort of like the broader mental health community.

[00:22:28] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So the first is, you know, I'd love to kind of see us continue to push. More toward the intersection of wellness and performance and the integration of the whole person, like personal and professional into the work that we do from that integrated perspective. And so what I mean by that is like, I think for too long as a field, particularly in my field, we've tried to separate out.

[00:22:53] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Mental health and mental performance as though the person who's doing those two things is somehow different with different needs. [00:23:00] And I just don't think that that can continue for a productive future. And so I think like the, the neat place in the middle that we've are now kind of coming to explore is like, well, what does it mean to just sort of be generally healthy and what are the practices that facilitate that?

[00:23:17] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And I think in general, that's happening like across the field of psychology. You know, we're still paying a lot of attention to mental illness or mental health challenges, but we're also starting to pay a little bit more attention, not specifically to positive psychology, but to things like positive psychology or general kind of basic behavioral things people can do to just sustain themselves.

[00:23:39] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so I think that's a really important thing for people to just continue to sort of like push toward, right. Not everything has to be a problem to solve or something to be wrong for you to wanna be working toward. Taking better care of yourself being healthier, being higher, performing those sorts of things.

[00:23:55] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So I think that's one number two would be, you know, I'd love [00:24:00] to see a continued emphasis on creating healthy and high performing environments. So I'm sure you've seen, you know, the research from like Amy Edmondson on psychological safety, which has gotten just a ton of attention in the last several years.

[00:24:13] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Primarily as organizations have transitioned more to remote work, but I think that same principle. Is really critical in, in sport environments and is critical in, in all of our environments. And so, you know, the more and more we understand about the role, the environment plays in facilitating or hindering human behavior, the more and more we realize how important that environmental system is.

[00:24:37] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And I think it would be good for all of us as mental health practitioners and certainly for sports psychologists to be thinking less about the work that happens. One on one in the room and more about the work that happens outside the room with the entire organization and system so that we can create conditions wherein [00:25:00] people can flourish and they, they don't necessarily need therapy.

[00:25:05] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Right. This might be blasphemous to say to a group of therapists. I don't know, but I think the goal is for people to not need therapy, like generally by creating a healthier system and reducing distress overall, I don't think we'll ever get to this perfect place where there is no need for that, but I think we should be striving toward overall reducing distress.

[00:25:28] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so I think that starts with creating these healthy and high performing environments. And then the last thing I think that's coming kind of as a frontier in my field is figuring out how we take care of ourselves and how we take care of our colleagues and peers. You know, sport is an incredibly demanding environment.

[00:25:46] Dr. Alex Auerbach: There's very minimal time off. There's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of performance expectations and those things fall often squarely on the shoulders of. People like myself or other healthcare providers in [00:26:00] this system, as well as coaches. To really deliver and, and that kind of constant tension and pressure can be really challenging.

[00:26:09] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so, you know, I think the teams and organizations at every level that start to think about how do we take care of our athletic trainers? How do we take care of our dietician? How do we take care of our psychologists, nutritionists, strengthen conditioning staff, coaches, the people who are trying to figure out how we make those people healthier and higher performing and not just the athlete.

[00:26:29] Dr. Alex Auerbach: I think those are gonna be some really dynamic opportunities and some really powerful interventions. And so I guess that wasn't the final thing. Cause I got one more thing I'm gonna add in which, you know, it sort of ties back to a question you asked earlier, but I would just say, like, I also think it's helpful for people to just remember that at the end of all of this sort of sport experience, right.

[00:26:51] Dr. Alex Auerbach: The athletes are still people. And I think being attuned to that. As it pertains to like how you engage with athletes on [00:27:00] social media, how you engage with athletes in your community. Just being really mindful of the impact that we can all have on one another and being thoughtful about the ways that we engage with these people.

[00:27:10] Dr. Alex Auerbach: I think. Is a really important challenge. We're trying to figure out internally now as a field, because as you I'm sure know, you know, fans can be pretty cruel on Twitter and figuring out how we sort of like move through that and work with that in a really unique way, I think is important. But I think it's also the responsibility of the broader community to promote healthier relationships, healthier interactions, those kinds of things, to help get the best out of these athletes and make sure we're being the best we can be ourselves.

[00:27:39] John Cordray: I love that. That is so amazing. And with that, because we all have a part to play. And if you're, if you're watching a sport and maybe it's live and you're at the, the stadium, don't boo, don't do the things that you wouldn't want people to do for you. You want to encourage these athletes, [00:28:00] we're there to be entertained by them.

[00:28:02] John Cordray: And so you bring up such an important topic and they are people. And Twitter and other social media can be just a place, unfortunately, for people to be mean and unkind. And that's not at all what we wanna do. We wanna promote kindness and wellness. Excellent points. Excellent points. Hey, before I let you go, I have actually one question.

[00:28:26] John Cordray: That's a question that I like to ask all of my guests and it has to do with self-care you mentioned this little bit ago about self-care and taking care of yourself is important. I would love to know what are some things that you do for care? 

[00:28:41] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah. I love that you ask everyone this, because I think this is like such a cool thing to learn from other people.

[00:28:47] Dr. Alex Auerbach: And so I am looking forward to like listening back and hearing what some of the other guests you've had have to say. So for me, a few things, right? So one is playing with my dog. Two is [00:29:00] I have a regular mindfulness practice. I've engaged in mindfulness meditation, almost daily for the last 10 years now with, you know, a handful of misses, probably over the course of that time.

[00:29:12] Dr. Alex Auerbach: But you know, very regular. I exercise regularly journal, you know, do a lot of walking outside and have recently gotten into a little bit more heart rate variability training as like a kinda an extension of the mindfulness practice and continuing to work on, you know, just being a better regulated person myself.

[00:29:30] Dr. Alex Auerbach: So those are a few of my self care practices and things I try to do to make sure I can be the best that I am every day showing up for the people I work with. 

[00:29:40] John Cordray: Excellent. Love love, love hearing about others who are taking care of themselves and what they do, and what's meaningful for them. And you're right.

[00:29:49] John Cordray: We can learn from each other. Are 

[00:29:51] Dr. Alex Auerbach: you gonna tell me where yours are then? 

[00:29:54] John Cordray: so funny cuz I had another guest ask me that. Yes. So I love doing all things [00:30:00] outside. I, I like to get up early. Very, very early is my best time of the day. And I just spend time by myself. I also enjoy going outside and my wife and I recently, we, we got bikes and so we go trail riding and we are blessed to have so many trails near us.

[00:30:22] John Cordray: And it is so fun to go on a trail and just ride and you'll see wildlife and smell just the flowers and listen to streams and the water when you ride by it. It's just so sensory. It's a sensory relief after a long day of work and be able to get out and, and just enjoy the outdoors. And I think that's the biggest thing for me when I think of self care.

[00:30:52] John Cordray: But thanks for asking. 

[00:30:54] Dr. Alex Auerbach: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I love that. And now I'm ready to go on a bike ride. 

[00:30:59] John Cordray: yeah, [00:31:00] we love it. That's our, our new passion. Well, Hey, Dr. AACH. Thank you so much. For just giving us some of your time. It's so interesting to hear what you do, especially with the Toronto Raptors and you provide a very valuable service and it goes behind the scenes, but it does not go unappreciated.

[00:31:23] John Cordray: Thank you for what you do. And thanks for coming on and sharing with us and encouraging us to continue to work on our mental 

[00:31:31] Dr. Alex Auerbach: health. Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure. Oh, 

[00:31:34] John Cordray: that's awesome. Well, thank you everybody for listening to this episode of the mental health today show as always. I appreciate you and I thank you and make sure you continue to work on your mental health.

[00:31:46] John Cordray: What are you doing for self-care? All right, I'm gonna let you go. And remember the mental health today show has been championing your mental health since 2015. Take care.[00:32:00] 

Alex AuerbachProfile Photo

Alex Auerbach

Senior Director, Wellness & Development

Dr. Alex Auerbach is the Director of Wellness and Development for the Toronto Raptors. He joined the Toronto Raptors after serving as the Director of Clinical and Sport Psychology for the University of Arizona. Dr. Auerbach has worked with NCAA Division-I schools in the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12, and Conference USA.

Dr. Auerbach earned his doctoral degree in counseling psychology with a specialization in sport and performance psychology from the University of North Texas. He received a Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University and a Bachelor in Business Administration from the University of Arizona.

Dr. Auerbach is a member of the American Psychological Association’s Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology) and Division 17 (Counseling Psychology), as well as the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Dr. Auerbach is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant, a Licensed Psychologist, and a member of the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry.