Curious about how to incorporate sports psychiatry into your career? Then you've come to the right place to learn more about what other members have done in the field.
Brigita Stenger, MD
My name is Brigita Stenger, and I am psychiatrist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist from Vilnius, Lithuania. As a former athlete and a trained mental health provider, I am able to combine my experience with the professional skills that are needed to work with athletes. I plan to further my knowledge by pursuing a PhD in sports psychiatry. I have been a member of the ISSP since October of 2017, and am currently a mentee in the ISSP mentoring program.
My career as a dancer began when I was 3 years old. After learning the basics in ballet, I competed throughout childhood. I then turned to professional dancesport including Latin dances (samba, cha cha cha, rumba, paso doble and jive) and ballroom dances (slow waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot and quickstep). My dance partner and I worked hard to become one of the top couples in Lithuania in our age group at the time. At 16, I joined “Zuvedra,” a Lithuanian Latin formation team, and we became European and world champions.
I studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy during psychiatry residency and subsequently began working in an outpatient clinic and my own psychotherapeutic private practice. I am very interested in treating athletes and recently have been working with coaches and adolescent/adult professional dancers. I aim to help them better understand themselves and their sport, as well as optimize their performance. I am collaborating with my ISSP mentor, Dr. David Conant-Norville, on a new project focusing on dancesport adjudicators/judges. I look forward to future opportunities in the field of sports psychiatry, both within dancesport and in other sports.
Claire Twark, MD
2014 Kona Ironman World Championship photo courtesy of FinisherPix
Hello! My name is Claire and as the Communications Chair for the ISSP, I keep our members up to date on the latest ISSP activities, manage the ISSP listserv, post material to the ISSP website and organize the creation of our quarterly newsletter. I completed the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in 2017 and the Partners HealthCare Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship at Massachusetts General, McLean, and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals in 2018. My interest in addiction and sports psychiatry led me to design a selective in these fields for my final year of residency. During this time, I began my ongoing collaboration with the Brigham and Women's Hospital Sports Medicine Department by seeing athletes referred for psychiatric concerns such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating, substance use disorders, and stress related to injuries.
After running for Harvard in college, I returned to competing in triathlons and joined the Boston Triathlon Team. I qualified for and completed the 2014 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Austria. Based on Ironman results in 2014, I was ranked 18th in the U.S. and 38th in the world (top 1%) in my age group. I am a four-time Ironman triathlon finisher and was awarded All-American Honors from USA Triathlon in 2015.
I enjoy meeting other ISSP members and facilitating member involvement in our various projects, so feel free to reach out if you are interested!
Mehak Chopra, DO
My name is Mehak Chopra and I am the first fellow to train at the Stanford University Student Mental Health Fellowship. The fellowship involves working within the Stanford Department of Psychiatry as well as the student mental health center. Currently, I see student-athletes for both medication management and psychotherapy. The program includes weekly clinic hours, bi-monthly team meetings and weekly supervision for both medication and psychotherapy. I really enjoy the program because it gives me the opportunity to treat not only intramural and Division I athletes but also those who compete at the Olympic and professional levels.
I graduated from psychiatry residency at Stony Brook University Hospital in 2017. I am currently a board member for both the ISSP and the Healthy Mind Foundation. I am certified in TMS, and believe that it is a great alternative to medication in athletes worried about medication side effects. My sports psychiatry colleagues and I recently presented at the 2018 APA Annual Meeting on issues faced by student-athletes and the treatment of common conditions.
My professional pursuit stems from my personal interest in playing tennis, badminton, racket ball and table tennis. I played varsity tennis in high school. I also enjoy running and have participated in numerous races.
Dr. Chopra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Cojanu, MD
My name is Alex Cojanu. I am a psychiatry resident at Wayne State University – Detroit Medical Center in the exciting heart of America’s great comeback city, Detroit. The combination of having been involved in competitive tennis from a young age, together with a passion for understanding mental health and decision-making processes led me to join the ISSP in 2017. I look forward to being a part of the growth and increased worldwide exposure of sports psychiatry through collaboration with similarly-minded individuals. I have been fortunate to discuss the topic with renowned experts such as Dr. Ira Glick and Dr. Todd Stull as well as Dr. Claire Twark.
On a personal note, I began playing tennis when I was 4 years old and quickly developed a passion for the sport, competing in both national and international events as a junior. After a successful NCAA Division I collegiate career at The College of William and Mary, where I qualified for the NCAA National Championships both in singles and doubles, my focus turned to professional tennis. I was fortunate to compete in professional events worldwide, winning three professional doubles titles and achieving a career-high world ranking of 512 on the ATP Circuit.
These experiences allowed me to better understand the correlation between an individual’s (and team’s) mental preparation and performance. A deeper inquiry into the topic revealed the importance of factors such as stress, anxiety, mindset, motivation, and expectations as well as the biological, psychological, and social aspects affecting performance. With a desire to better understand these intricacies, I completed a Master’s Degree in Neurobiology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
I envision increased awareness of the mental health needs within sports and am excited about the possibility for future opportunities. As some of my esteemed colleagues have already mentioned, there is a need for collaboration and further development of guidelines within the emerging field of sports psychiatry. I am thrilled to be a part of the ISSP and look forward to conversations with others who share this interest.
Dr. Alex Cojanu can be reached at email@example.com.
Helio Fádel, MD
My name is Helio Fádel. I am completing my training at the Residency Program of Psychiatry at the Aeronautics Central Hospital in Rio de Janeiro. I strive to bring awareness to the field of sports psychiatry in Brazil. As an emerging field, there is a need for experienced sports psychiatrists in my country. In order to learn more about this field and develop working relationships with experienced sports psychiatrists, I joined the ISSP in early 2017. Since then, I had the honor of meeting esteemed colleagues like Drs. Claudia Reardon, Michael Lardon, Shane Creado, and Todd Stull. I am committed to the development of a more evidence-based approach to sports psychiatry, which will ultimately contribute to our ability to provide specialized mental health care to athletes.
Sports, especially soccer, have been extremely important in my life since I was a young boy. I began at a soccer school for kids, continued at the recreational level in grade school, and moved on to regional competitions in high school and college. I also had the rare opportunity to play professionally on soccer teams in both Brazil and Spain. In addition to soccer, I have practiced and competed in other sports such as volleyball, distance running, handball, indoor soccer, and table tennis. Lastly, as a hobby, I enjoy fishing.
Through this close contact with sports, I have become familiar with sports culture and the dynamics of sports organizations. I have a personal understanding of the importance of mental preparation, and one my favorite approaches is to listen to songs like “Stand Up (For the Champions)” by Right Said Fred and “Going the Distance” by Bill Conti before competition. I have also experienced the routines, emotions, and challenges that athletes face daily. The mental aspects can be particularly taxing, so I believe that athletes can benefit from mental health care. Though this area is often neglected by athletes and teams, studies are increasingly showing the influence of the mind on performance. The competitive sports environment itself can trigger several psychiatric disorders. Therefore, I believe that we should provide specialized mental health care to patient-athletes of all ages, including those in retirement.
Currently, I am working in cooperation with Dr. David McDuff to release the first sports psychiatry literature in Brazil, which is based on his original book entitled Sports Psychiatry: Strategies for Life Balance and Peak Performance. At the 35th Brazilian Congress of Psychiatry in São Paulo in October of 2017, I am presenting a roundtable discussion about sports psychiatry. Additionally, during my last few months of residency, I will contribute to a research project about mental health issues among elite soccer players.
In the future, I support the development of more sports psychiatry training opportunities and fellowship experiences. This in turn would likely encourage the collection of athlete-specific data and collaboration between professionals to establish more guidelines and promote the specialty internationally. I hope to be able to contribute to the field of sports psychiatry and leave a mark on this growing specialty.
Dr. Helio Fádel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danielle Kamis, MD
My name is Danielle Kamis and I am a psychiatry resident at Stanford University. I am passionate about the growing field of sports psychiatry and serve as a Member in Training for the ISSP. I began fencing when I was just 11 years old and continue to have a compelling interest in the sport. I competed at both the elite national and international level since a young age. In addition, I competed as a Division I athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, where I was a four-time NCAA championship qualifier, All American, and Academic-All Ivy fencer, as well as captain of Penn’s fencing team.
Currently, I have strong clinical and research interests in the field of sports psychiatry. During residency, I have been working on multiple research projects with Stanford Professor Emeritus Dr. Ira Glick. We first published an article in the International Review of Psychiatry entitled “Cheating and Sports: History, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Currently, we are compiling The ISSP Manual of Sports Psychiatry, which is the first textbook of its kind in the field. It details the theory and practice of sports psychiatry, including the qualifications, treatment, and service that a sports psychiatrist actually provides to a particular sport.
Additionally, I have been working with the sports mental health team at Stanford, brainstorming ideas for research projects working with student-athletes. In the clinical arena, I mostly work with student-athletes in cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy clinics on a weekly basis. I attend bi-monthly meetings with the Stanford Sports Mental Health Team with fellow psychologists and psychiatrists to discuss clinical cases and increase general education in the field. It has been a very stimulating experience thus far and I am looking forward to the future developments in this field!