Circus Psychologist: What's on their minds?

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We usually think of psychologists as seeing clients, conducting research or teaching at universities. But psychologists also work in many unexpected places and on many unexpected topics like Circus!


Madeleine Hallé helps performers at Cirque du Soleil fly without fear. As senior performance psychologist, Hallé helps the company's 1,300-plus artists perform nearly impossible feats at about two dozen different shows around the world. She is helping performers cope with the stress of the job as well as recovery from injuries or exhaustion if needed.



Helping performers stay confident isn't just a matter of mental health it also reduces their chances of injury. What do you need for the job? Hallé earned a coaching-oriented master's degree in sport sciences, followed by a doctorate degree in sport psychology.
"It's a fantastic environment to work in, I'm really lucky to be able to work here."
-Madeleine
Hallé
  Circus Psychologist  
What exactly they have to do on the job? One of the main responsibilities of a Circus Psychologist is helping trainees adjust to their new identities as performers. Performers come from the top ranks of gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming and other sports, but once they walk through Cirque du Soleil's doors, they are seen as artists. It's a major transition, says Hallé. "Here everybody at the same level, even if they have Olympic medals," she says, explaining that former athletes can also have trouble becoming beginners again. Readjust to the anarchy of the creative process in another challenge. In comparison to the organized routine of an elite athlete working toward a gold medal, the process of creating a show is fluid and nonlinear. 


"They don't know how to cope with the fact that we go in one direction one day, and the day after it's the complete opposite ," says Hallé. Along with the other staff psychologist, Hallé spends her days working in small groups or one-on-one with performance on such issues as overcoming fear, recovering from fatigue or injury and coping with the pressure of preparing for a show. Performance have more mundane concerns, too. Drawn from around the world, they often miss their families, for example. Although Hallé is based at Cirque du Soleil's headquarters in Montreal, she can find herself in Macao, Tokyo or other far-flung destinations if there's trouble at one of the shows. She spends about a month on the road every year, helping staff and artists communicate better or overcome disputes about workload or other issues. 


Travel lovers will just go for it without giving it a second thought. So what do you think of this jobs? It is definitely a tough call.


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