World Mental Health Day

How a simple chat and a dog help Brentford players' mental wellbeing

10 Oct 2023

The Bees' sports psychologist Michael Caulfield explains his methods to get people to talk about their mental health

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"If you can get the player and staff care correct, there's every chance that you can optimise the potential of the people who then have to go and do the hard bit, which is cross the white line and play in front of a global audience on a weekly basis."

These are the words of Brentford's retained sports psychologist, Michael Caulfield, who works on getting the players and staff of the Premier League club in the right place mentally. 

He does that generally using two methods: going for a walk with them, rather than sitting with them in an office, and by bringing a dog, Paisley, along on these walks. 

"It relaxes people and it's a good distraction and because he's such an animal, he gives a lot of energy and affection off, so people feel wanted and valued and the greatest human need for any human being still, is to feel wanted and he does that," Caulfield explains. "So, I then feed off that and it starts a different conversation and within five minutes you can discuss anything you want and it just works.

"And when you’re sitting on a park bench, on a reasonably nice day and the sun's out, and you’ve got a cup of tea and you've got the dog sitting at your feet, you don't feel judged, you’re just being yourself. That's why I try and develop that approach.

"It might not work in all walks of life, but in elite performance where you are scrutinized, measured, judged every day of your life, that helps.  And I would urge anyone in any walk of life, if they want to protect and build their mental health, to get the basics and the simple natural things right."

'It's just normal'

Brentford midfielder Keane Lewis-Potter talks about how Caulfield and Paisley help him: "We go for a walk usually now... twice a week with Paisley as well and, to be honest, it’s general talk how each others' week's gone, you know. What we've been up to, what our plans are.

"Being able to just get that out while you’re walking around it's just normal. It's so much easier. I think, with Michael, it just feels natural."

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