36 Sport &Exercise Psychology Review Vol 1 No 1 © The British Psychological Society 2005 GISSN 1745-4980

Case history and initial assessment


HE PARTICIPANTwas a female ama-

teur judoka who was ranked within the

top six in Great Britain at the start of the

intervention. The participant trained three

times a week. Preliminary interviews with the

participant revealed that she lacked self-effi-

cacy (self-confidence) for training and com-

petition after having a year out from

competing due to the break-up of a long

standing personal relationship. Although

self-confidence is a term often used by ath-

letes to describe a belief in their ability to be

successful, psychologists typically refer to the

construct of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is

defined as ‘…a belief in one’s capabilities to

organise and execute the courses of action

required to produce given attainments’

(Bandura, 1997, p.3). The term self-efficacy

reflects situation-specific self-confidence (i.e.

the belief to successfully execute a specific

move in judo) as opposed to global self-con-

fidence (i.e. confidence in your ability as a

judoka) which is more of a personality trait

or disposition (Cox, 2002). Bandura (1986,

1997) proposes that performance accom-

plishments (i.e. experiencing success), vicar-

ious experiences (i.e. viewing a skilled

performer), verbal persuasion (i.e. positive

self-talk) and emotional arousal (i.e. being

emotionally ready and optimally aroused)

are all essential elements that determine an

individual’s level of self-efficacy.

Following a discussion with her coach the

participant had decided to return to training

and competition and to ‘give it one more

go’. Since returning to training the partici-

pant reported that she felt ‘inferior’ and ‘did

not deserve to be on the mat’ as well as expe-

riencing thoughts of failing during training

and competition. This was often the case

when the participant was faced with familiar

opponents. The participant believed that

these thoughts stemmed from a poor run of

form prior to her break from competition.

Because of her low level of self-efficacy the

participant believed that she had become

‘soft’ on the mat, which prevented her hav-

ing the necessary ‘edge’ to compete at a high

level. The participant’s performances were

poorer than past seasons and this was caus-

ing her worry and frustration.

The participant wished to have a greater

belief in her ability prior both to training

and competition. She also wanted to per-

form well in the upcoming National Trials

(which were three months away at the start

of the study) and be more consistent

throughout competitions during the season.

To provide a baseline measure of the type of

Using hypnosis to increase self-efficacy:

A case study in elite judo

Jamie B. Barker & Marc V. Jones

An elite female judoka reported a debilitating level of self-efficacy relative to judo performance. Pre- and

post-intervention data were collected via a specifically designed self-efficacy questionnaire (SEQ) that con-

sisted of seven items relating to good judo performance. An intervention programme consisting of eight hyp-

nosis sessions was conducted. These sessions comprised the delivery of general ego-strengthening,

sport-specific ego-strengthening and self-hypnosis suggestions. A pre-performance routine using self-hypnosis

was developed for use prior to training and competition. Data from the SEQ were inconclusive, as there

was a trend towards higher self-efficacy prior to the intervention. However, the participant reported a pos-

itive perception of hypnosis and believed that the use of hypnosis resulted in increased self-belief during both

training and competition. Although further research is needed the findings of this case study suggest that

hypnosis can be used to enhance self-efficacy in sport performers.

mental strategies employed by the partici-

pant the Test of Performance Strategies

(TOPS; Thomas, Murphy & Hardy, 1999)

was administered. In addition, a specifically

developed Self-Efficacy Questionnaire

(SEQ) was completed within 24 hours of the

training session or competition. The SEQ

consists of seven items relating to good judo

performance based on the micro-analytic

approach to self-efficacy assessment outlined

by Treasure, Monson and Lox (1996). The

seven items consisted of the following:

aggression, gripping, newaza (arm locks/

strangles), upping the pace, attacking first,

positive attacking and focus. The participant

noted how certain she had felt of completing

each move successfully in her last training

session/competition. As such, the question-

naire required the participant to recall the

level of self-belief they felt they had about

successfully completing the identified per-

formance-related items during actual per-

formance. A rating of 100 indicated high

certainty and a rating of 0 indicated no belief

in her ability to complete the tasks. Baseline

data were collected over nine training ses-

sions and competitions.

Problem formulation

The intake interview indicated that the par-

ticipant reported a debilitating level of self-

efficacy prior to performance. In addition,

the participant’s mean score on the SEQ was

46.91 (S.D. = 4.01). The results from the pre-

intervention TOPS revealed that the partici-

pant used relaxation strategies much more

frequently in competition as opposed to

training. In addition, she indicated that the

use of imagery and self-talk in training and

competition was infrequent and that she

engaged in a lot of negative thinking when

performing in competition (see Table 1).

Self-efficacy is regarded as a strong and

consistent predictor of successful individual

athletic performance (Kane, Marks, Zaccaro

& Blair, 1996; Treasure, Monson & Lox, 1996).

Self-efficacy levels are proposed to impact per-

formance by determining levels of motivation

which will be reflected in the challenges indi-

viduals undertake, the effort they expend and

levels of perseverance (Bandura, 1997). Self-

efficacy judgements have also been shown to

influence certain thought patterns (e.g. goal

intentions, worries, causal attributions) and

emotional reactions such as, pride, shame,

happiness, and sadness (Bandura, 1997).

TOPS variable Pre TOPS score Post TOPS score

Activation (Practice) 12 13

Activation (Competition) 14 15

Relaxation (Practice) 4 16

Relaxation (Competition) 9 16

Imagery (Practice) 4 16

Imagery (Competition) 6 15

Goal Setting (Practice) 16 19

Goal Setting (Competition) 16 18

Self Talk (Practice) 5 16

Self Talk (Competition) 4 16

Automaticity (Practice) 12 12

Automaticity (Competition) 11 11

Emotional Control (Practice) 12 12

Emotional Control (Competition) 14 14

Attentional Control (Practice) 11 16

Negative Thinking (Competition) 15 8

Table 1: Pre- and post intervention Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS)scores

38 Sport &Exercise Psychology Review Vol 1 NoThere is a plethora of research docu-

menting the effectiveness of a variety of men-

tal techniques in facilitating self-efficacy

within the sport domain (Zinsser, Bunker &

Williams, 2001). Evidence can be found sup-

porting the use of goal setting (Kane et al.,

1996; Locke & Latham, 1990; Schunk, 1991),

positive feedback (Escarti & Guzman, 1999;

Schunk, 1995), imagery (Feltz & Riessinger,

1990; Jones, Mace, Bray, McRae & Stock-

bridge, 2002) and self-talk (Feltz, 1988;

Wilkes & Summers, 1984).

In the current study hypnosis was used as

an intervention to enhance self-efficacy.

Hypnosis can be defined as ‘…an induced

temporary condition of being in a state that

differs mentally and physiologically from a

person’s normal state of being’ (Weitzenhof-

fer, 2000, p.221). Suggestions are given dur-

ing hypnotic trance to alter perceptions,

thoughts, feelings, sensations which facilitate

a long-term change in behaviour (Unestahl,

1983). Recent research by Pates and col-

leagues has focussed on the effectiveness of

hypnosis in generating an appropriate psy-

chological state for competition (Pates,

Cummings & Maynard, 2002; Pates & May-

nard, 2000; Pates, Maynard & Westbury,

2001; Pates, Oliver & Maynard, 2001). These

researchers have been consistently able to

induce a flow state and demonstrate

enhanced performance across a wide variety

of tasks. Despite these positive findings,

there is a need for further research to evalu-

ate the efficacy of hypnosis on psychological

variables such as self-efficacy, in order for

hypnosis to be considered as a performance

enhancing strategy by the sport science com-

munity (Pates, Cummings &Maynard, 2002;

Taylor, Horevitz & Balague, 1993).


Initially, the participant revealed that she was

sceptical about the use of hypnosis as a per-

formance enhancing technique. This was a

result of viewing stage hypnosis which

resulted in the construction of a negative

perception. Therefore, prior to the hypnotic

intervention the participant was presented

with information about hypnosis, the nature

of a trance state, and the procedure that

would be followed when inducing a hypnotic

trance. This was to alleviate any misconcep-

tions about hypnosis, to facilitate rapport

(Heap & Aravind, 2001) and alleviate any

anxiety the participant was experiencing

about the use of hypnosis (Hammond,

1990).The participant was also informed

that an appropriately qualified individual

would deliver the hypnosis sessions (all ses-

sions were delivered by the first author, who

holds a Certificate in Clinical Hypnosis from

the London College of Clinical Hypnosis).

Following this, the participant provided

informed consent to participate in the inter-


The hypnotic intervention commenced

with three sessions that adopted general ego

strengthening suggestions. The sessions

lasted approximately 70 minutes each and

were consultant led. Each session consisted

of the following phases: induction, deep-

ener, post-hypnotic suggestions (PHS) and

awakening. These sessions introduced the

individual to hypnosis and presented them

with suggestions that would stimulate posi-

tive thoughts and behaviours (Hammond,

1990). Then, three sessions that adopted

judo specific ego strengthening suggestions

were undertaken. Again each session lasted

approximately 70 minutes, were consultant

led, and comprised of an induction, deep-

ener, PHS and awakening. An original script

was developed with the athlete to make it

more personal and specific to judo training

and competition. Here terms and phases

that the participant was familiar with were

used. The post-hypnotic suggestions used are

reported in Figure 1 overleaf. The final part

of the intervention comprised two sessions

(each 80 minutes in length and consultant

led) focussing on developing the partici-

pant’s ability to use self-hypnosis. The self-

hypnosis sessions contained the following

phases; induction, deepener, PHS (focussing

on installing self-hypnosis suggestions) and

awakening. This stage provided the partici-

pant with instructions on how to undertake

self-hypnosis when alone. In addition, sug-

gestions focussing on feelings and sensations

were presented (Liggett, 2000). Following

this session the participant was instructed on

how to induce self-hypnosis and was asked to

practice twice daily and to keep a diary doc-

umenting their experiences as well as the

depth of trance they achieved. Frequency of

practice was measured by the completion of

a practice chart which was collected from the

participant each week. This revealed that she

had adhered to her twice daily practice of

self-hypnosis. From these sessions a pre-per-

formance routine that used self-hypnosis was

developed. The routine comprised using

self-hypnosis two hours prior to each train-

When you practice and compete…you will no longer think nearly so much about yourself…you will

no longer dwell nearly so much upon yourself and your difficulties…and you will become much

less conscious of yourself…much less pre-occupied with yourself…and with your feelings…

Every time you practice and compete…your nerves will become stronger and steadier…more

composed…you will become much less easily worried…much less easily agitated…much less easily

fearful and apprehensive…much less easily upset…you will find it much easier to ‘step up’ on the

mat prior to judo performance…

When standing on the mat prior to judo practice and competition you will be able to think more

clearly…you will be able to concentrate more easily…you will be able to give your whole undivided

attention to whatever you are doing…to the complete exclusion of everything else…and you will

find it easier to ‘step up’…

Every time you practice or compete…youwill become and remain… emotionally much calmer…

much more settled…much less easily disturbed…much more dominant…more assertive…stronger

and powerful…more so than you have felt for a long time…

Every time you practice and compete…youwill become and youwill remain…less tense…both

mentally and physically…

And asyou become…and asyou remain…less tense when standing on the mat prior to and during

practice and competition…you will develop much more confidence in yourself…more confidence in

your abilityto do…not only what you have…to do each day…but more confidence in your ability

to do whatever you oughtto be able to do…without fear of failure…without fear of

consequences…without unnecessary anxiety…without uneasiness…

Because of this…every time you practice or compete… you will feel more and more

independent…more able to stick up for yourself…to stand on your own feet to hold your

own…more assertive and powerful… no matter how difficult or trying things may be…

Every time you practice and compete…you will feel a greater feeling of personal well being…a

greater feeling of personal safety and security…more than you have felt for a long, long time…

And because all these things will begin to happen…exactly as I tell you they will happen…more

and more rapidly…powerfully…and completely…with every treatment I give you…you will feel

more confident when standing on the mat prior to both training and competition…

You will consequently become much more able to rely upon…to depend upon…yourself…your own

efforts…your own judgement…your own opinions…in both practice and competition…

Figure 1: Post-hypnotic sport specific ego strengthening suggestions

ing session for a period of four weeks. The

routine was then adapted for the partici-

pant’s first competition of the season when

the participant would use hypnosis at the fol-

lowing times: the night before competition,

morning of the event and upon arrival at the

venue. Here the participant would find a

place that was quiet and where they could

comfortably position themselves without dis-

tractions, and then they would close their

eyes and focus on deep, slow and controlled

breathing. After approximately five minutes

the participant would present themselves

(internally) with positive suggestions that

focussed on self-belief, success and concen-

tration (similar to those outlined in Figure

1). Then the participant would awaken by

opening their eyes and moving their fingers

and toes. The participant later reported that

she was able to find quiet places to conduct

her routine and that she was able to a attain

a deep level of trance when using self-hyp-

nosis in this situation.

Throughout the intervention regular con-

tact was maintained with the participant,

which comprised telephone calls or meetings.

This was not only to facilitate adherence and

outcome, but also to monitor the participant’s

views and feelings about the use of the mental

skill (i.e. hypnosis) and adapt the intervention

if required (Shambrook & Bull, 1999).


In order to analyse the effectiveness of the

intervention 16 post-intervention data points

(SEQ) were collected. The TOPS was also

completed again and a post-intervention

interview was conducted to assess the partic-

ipant’s perception of the intervention. It is

worth noting that data point 25 in Figure 2

represents participation in the National Judo

Trials. In addition, 10 follow-up measures six

months after the intervention were also col-

lected. Data were analysed via visual analysis

and a comparison of pre and post descriptive

statistics. Visual analytical techniques were

used in order to eliminate small effects and

hence promote large intervention effects

(Baer, 1977).

Figure 2 highlights that self-efficacy

increased (during pre- and post-interven-

tion phases) with each training session that

was completed. However, post intervention

and during the follow-up phase this

increase is more gradual and constant. The

participant indicated that during session

17, her mind was filled with positive

thoughts and images about successful per-

formance for the first time since returning

to training and competition. The data also

indicate that the participant experienced

her highest level of self-efficacy (up to that

point) for the National Trials (data point

Figure 2: Pre- and Post-Intervention and 6-Month Follow-Up Self-Efficacy (SEQ) Scores

25). Visual analysis of the pre- and post-

intervention mean scores indicated a mean-

ingful difference across the SEQ scores

(SEQ pre M = 46.91, SD = 4.01; SEQ post M

= 52.52, SD = 2.88).

The post-intervention TOPS scores

revealed an overall improvement in the indi-

vidual’s use of psychological strategies dur-

ing training and competition. The

improvement centred upon an increase in

the use of imagery and self-talk in training

and competition and a reduction in the use

of negative thinking during competition

(Table 1). For example, the participant

reported visualising successful performance

during training session 17.

A post-intervention interview with the

participant revealed that she now held the

intervention in positive regard. She

reported that the intervention helped her

to have greater belief in her ability (i.e. an

increased frequency of positive thoughts),

to feel more relaxed and focused prior to

training and competition and also that

hypnosis had increased her self-belief in

other life situations (e.g. job interview and

a university presentation). Although the

participant had highlighted that she was

sceptical regarding the use of hypnosis at

the beginning of the intervention, she

indicated that she would now recommend

the technique to other athletes. Further-

more, she reported that there had been a

definite change in the belief she had in

her own ability, stating that the ‘self-belief

is now back’. In short, the hypnosis had

become an integral part of her judo


The participant finished sixth in the

National Trials, which was slightly lower than

she had aimed for (her goal was to finish

within the top five). However, she reported

feeling pleased with how she had performed

in the competition and overall she was

pleased with her recent performances and

reported being appreciative of the interest

and enthusiasm shown by the consultant in

aiding her development.


The study examined the effects of a hypnotic

intervention on an elite judoka experiencing

low levels of self-efficacy during training and

competition. As the number of training ses-

sions increased so did the participant’s level

of self-efficacy. Accordingly, it seems that

training experiences over the study period,

such as performance accomplishments and

vicarious experiences, have contributed to

this increase (Bandura, 1997). However, evi-

dence from the participant implies that hyp-

nosis encouraged a greater use of positive

self-talk and imagery during training and com-

petition. This supports Bandura’s (1986) pre-

diction that verbal persuasion is a significant

factor impacting upon an individual’s level

of self-efficacy. In addition, the participant

felt the hypnotic intervention had allowed

her to feel more (appropriately) psychologi-

cally prepared for competition. Therefore,

supporting research by Pates and colleagues

who successfully used hypnosis to induce

flow states in participants across a variety of

sport related tasks (e.g. Pates & Maynard,

2000; Pates, Cummings &Maynard, 2002).

The use of educational material relating

to hypnosis and the development of a close

rapport with the participant (via telephone

calls and meetings) was thought to aid the

participant’s adherence to the intervention

protocol. From a practical point the estab-

lishing of rapport and reducing the impact

of negative perceptions towards hypnosis

cannot be underestimated in facilitating a

successful outcome (Hammond, 1990; Heap

& Aravind, 2001).

The participant reported a positive per-

ception towards hypnosis and attributed the

use of hypnosis to her having greater self-

belief in her judo ability both in training and

competition. In addition, she also indicated

that her increase in self-efficacy had trans-

ferred into other life tasks. The participant

also successfully incorporated hypnosis into

her judo preparation and reported it being

an integral part of her training schedule six

months after the study.

One potential limitation of the study is the

inability to state that hypnosis was the contrib-

utory factor in facilitating a change in behav-

iour. It appears that the participant

experienced an increase in self-efficacy as she

began training following her return to compe-

tition. However, the participant did report that

the hypnosis was helpful in enhancing her self-

efficacy. Further research is needed within

sport psychology to consistently document the

effect of hypnosis on self-efficacy and other

psychological variables that impact sport per-

formance, such as anxiety and motivation.

The authors

Jamie B. Barker(j.b.barker@staffs.ac.uk)is a

Lecturer in Sport Psychology at Staffordshire

University. Marc V. Jonesis a Reader in Sport

Psychology at Staffordshire University.

Baer, D.M. (1977). Perhaps it would be better not to

know everything. Journal of Applied Behavior

Analysis, 10, 167-172.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundation of thought and

action: A social cognitive  theory. Englewood Cliffs,

NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control.

New York: Freeman.

Cox, R.H. (2002). Sport psychology: Concepts and appli-

cations (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Escarti, A. & Guzman, J.F. (1999). Effects of feedback on

self-efficacy, performance and choice in an athletic

task. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 11, 83-96.

Feltz, D.L. (1988). Self-confidence and sports per-

formance. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 16,


Feltz, D.L. & Riessinger, C.A. (1990). Effects of in vivo

emotive imagery and performance feedback on

self-efficacy and muscular endurance. Journal of

Sport & Exercise Psychology, 12, 132-143.

Hammond, D.C. (1990). Hypnotic suggestions and

metaphors. New York: WW Norton & Co.

Heap, M. & Aravind, K.A.K. (2001).Hartlands medical

and dental hypnosis (4th ed.). London: Churchill


Jones, M.R., Mace, R.D., Bray, S.R., McRae, A.W. &

Stockbridge, C. (2002). The impact of imagery

on the emotional state of novice climbers. Jour-

nal of Sport Behavior, 25, 57-73.

Kane, T.D., Marks, M.A., Zaccaro, S.J. & Blair, V.

(1996). Self-efficacy, personal goals and

wrestlers’ self regulation. Journal of Sport & Exer-

cise Psychology, 18, 36-48.

Liggett, D.R. (2000). Sport hypnosis. Champaign, IL:

Human Kinetics.

Locke, E.A. & Latham, G.P. (1990). A theory of goal set-

ting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:

Prentice- Hall.

Pates, J.K., Cummings, A. & Maynard, I. (2002). The

effects of hypnosis on flow states and three-point

shooting performance in basketball players. The

Sport Psychologist, 16, 34-47.

Pates, J.K. & Maynard, I. (2000). Effects of hypnosis

on flow states and golf performance. Perceptual

and Motor Skills, 91, 1057-1075.

Pates, J.K., Maynard, I. & Westbury, A. (2001). The

effects of hypnosis on basketball performance.

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 13, 84-102.

Pates, J.K., Oliver, R. & Maynard, I. (2001). The

effects of hypnosis on flow states and golf putting

performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology,

13, 341-354.

Schunk, D.H. (1991). Goal setting and self-evalua-

tion: A social cognitive perspective on self-regu-

lation. In M.L. Maehr & P.R. Pintrich (Eds.),

Advances in motivation and achievement (Vol. 7,

pp.85-113). Greenwich, CN:JAI Press.

Schunk, D.H. (1995). Self-efficacy and education and

instruction. In J. E. Maddux (Ed.), Self-efficacy,

adaptation and adjustment: Theory, research and

application(pp.281-303). New York: Plenum.

Shambrook, C.J. & Bull, S.J. (1999). Adherence to

psychological preparation in sport. In S. J. Bull

(Ed.), Adherence issues in sport and exercise (pp.169-

196). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Taylor, J., Horevitz, R. & Balague, G. (1993). The use

of hypnosis in applied sport psychology. The Sport

Psychologist, 7, 58-78.

Thomas, P.R., Murphy, S.M. & Hardy, L. (1999). Test

of performance strategies: Development and pre-

liminary validation of a comprehensive measure

of athletes’ psychological skills. Journal of Sports

Sciences, 17, 697-711.

Treasure, D.S., Monson, J. & Lox, C.L. (1996). Rela-

tionship between self-efficacy, wrestling perform-

ance and affect prior to competition. The Sport

Psychologist, 10, 73-83.

Unestahl, L.E. (1983). Inner mental training. Orebro,

Sweden: Veje Publications.

Weitzenhoffer, A.M. (2000). The practice of hypnotism.

New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Wilkes, R.L. & Summers, J.J. (1984). Cognitions,

mediating variables and strength performance.

Journal of Sport Psychology, 6, 351-359.

Zinsser, N., Bunker, L. & Williams, J.M. (2001). Cog-

nitive techniques for building confidence and

enhancing performance. In J.M. Williams (Ed.),

Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak per-

formance (4th ed., pp.284-311). Mountain View,

CA: Mayfield.