Steve Peters (psychiatrist)
Prof. / Dr. Steve Peters is an English psychiatrist who works in elite sport.
Peters was born in Middlesbrough in the UK on the 5th of July 1953 and brought up in the council estates. His father worked on Tees Dock as a stevedore and his mother worked as an insurance agent. He was the middle child of three boys. He attended Grammar school having passed the scholarship entrance exams. He was not academically inclined and by self-admission would pass each academic hurdle throughout his entire career by achieving only what was necessary. He achieved eight ordinary levels and then took four Advanced level subjects in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology; the first pupil at his school to take four ‘A’ level subjects. Peters encountered several personal tragedies in quick succession in his late teens and early twenties. His younger brother, whom he was close to, died in an accident; his father experienced a sudden death; his closest school friend died from cancer and his grandfather died, all in the space of four years.
After leaving school he went to Stirling University to study Mathematics and then went on to take a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education at Sheffield University, where he gained a distinction in teaching practice. He taught mathematics for several years in secondary schools and colleges. During his teaching career he undertook extensive voluntary work that spanned across organisations such as ‘Help the Aged’, the NSPCC (working with educationally and socially disadvantaged children), the RSPCA and he also took classes at North Sea Camp for young offenders alongside work in the probation service. Peters’ interest in the support for victims of crime led him to help start a victim support scheme in his town of Boston. This movement spread and resulted in the National Victims Support Scheme.
Peters re-entered University to study medicine at St Mary’s Medical School, part of the University of London. During his time as an undergraduate he was the year representative in his first year, the Secretary of the students Union in his second year and became President in his third year. He won the prize for medical statistics. Whilst at St Mary’s he also directed the medical school opera and became the president of London University Athletics. He represented London University at the British University Championships where he made the final in the 200 metres. Peters was awarded colours for outstanding service to the University of London.
After graduating as a doctor he undertook several position within hospitals and institutions across the UK in disciplines of surgery, medicine, general practice and various branches of psychiatry. He gained his membership exams for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and became a Consultant psychiatrist within the National Health Service, where he worked for twenty years. During this time he became the Clinical Director of Bassetlaw District General Hospital alongside his commitment to patient care. His career within the National Health Service culminated in working at the Special Hospital at Rampton under the Home Office working with patients with dangerous personality disorders. The press named him as being involved with the detection and solving of the Soams murders.* Peters specialised for some time in the treatment of alcohol and drug disorders and was a member of the Medical Council on Alcohol.
In parallel to his hospital clinical work he worked at Sheffield University as a Senior Clinical Lecturer in medicine where he became Undergraduate Dean and Professor of Psychiatry (positions which he still currently holds in 2015). During his time at the University he gained a Masters Degree in Medical Education, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Sports Medicine and was awarded a Doctorate in Medicine. Peters set a precedent by being bestowed the Senate award for teaching excellence on two occasions, still a unique achievement, and represented the University at a meeting to celebrate teaching excellence at Downing street. Peters set up the mentoring system for student support within the medical school and led on this for several years.
In 2001 a former student at Sheffield recommended Peters to the British Cycling team, and he moved from part-time to full-time work with the team in 2005. Particular Olympic cyclists he helped include Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. Sir Dave Brailsford has described Peters as "the best appointment I've ever made." Peters stepped down from his role with British Cycling in April 2014 when Brailsford left his position as Performance Director.
After the 2012 Olympics Peters was appointed by UK Athletics to work with the country's high performance athletes. Sprinter Adam Gemili, who won gold at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in the 200 metres and silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the 100 metres, attributed his ability to perform under pressure at major championships to his work with Peters.
The Chimp Model
Peters is a strong advocate of people looking after their emotional health. Although he has invented his own model to work with, he promotes many other models and recommends people to find one that resonates with them and then to work with it.
Peters has approached an understanding of human behaviours and functioning from a number of angles. He builds his work on the neuroscience of the brain and addresses behavioural, cognitive, developmental, dynamic, analytical and biological aspects. His Chimp model shares many aspects and principles of other therapies, which he has taught for many years at medical school. The key principle of difference from other models is the existence of two independently thinking and analysing systems with often differing and conflicting agendas and a third back up system that is programmed by these two systems and then typically overrides them. There is an emphasis placed on the brain possessing not just instincts and drives at an unconscious level but also the ability to analyse and think at both a conscious and unconscious level and to have independent agendas for different parts of the brain. He emphasises that there are effectively three systems at work within our minds. Two of these systems are analytical and act by interpreting and the third is a programmable system that also thinks but does this by pattern recognition – essentially in a behavioural and cognitive way. The model that he has introduced is purposefully simplistic and is offered as a way of being able to access the mind and to make sense of how and why it operates in the way that it does. He names the three systems the Chimp, the Human and the Computer. Each system has an agenda, a way of operating, a way of thinking and a base of rules that it works from. Peters continually emphasises in his work and presentations that everyone is unique and that there are necessary generalisations made in order to give a blueprint to work from and that every individual should discover for them self how their unique and particular mind is working. In general terms he describes the three systems as typically being as follows:
The Chimp works with an agenda of procreating the species and also of survival at an individual level. It does this by acting impulsively without thought of long-term consequence, and interprets the world with feelings and impressions and uses emotional thinking to make sense of the information it has received. The Chimp brain operates by way of jungle principles.
The Human works with a society agenda and operates by considering consequences before acting. The Human brain searches for facts and truths and puts these together in a logical way in order to reach a conclusion or to form plans to implement. It works within the principles of a society.
The Computer is a fast operating system within the brain, programmed by either the Human or the Chimp and works by fulfilling either agenda depending on how it is programmed. The Computer is effectively composed of learnt beliefs and behaviours and contains values and a means of establishing reality and perspective. It filters information presented to it and selects what it wants from the information perceived before a memory is formed and then when stored, the Computer amends the memory and refines it continuously making it somewhat unreliable. The Computer also predicts what will happen and can therefore alter the original perception of what is being received.
Peters published an outline of his model in 2012 in a book called The Chimp Paradox. It is has now sold over 500,000 copies in the UK and was the most successful selling Self-Development book of 2014. It has received criticism for its lack of references but Peters has always maintained that it was written for the general public and not for an academic audience.
Personal sports activity
In later life Peters has competed in athletics and has held multiple World Masters Champion Titles and World Records over the 100, 200 and 400 metres.
Peters has talked about happiness, and quality of life, as key life goals.
- Dr Steve Peters from Chimps to Champs – Independent
- The man behind the medals – BBC
- Interview GB Cycling Team Psychiatrist Steve Peters – British Cycling
- Craig Bellamy wins the battle with his inner Chimp – Telegraph
- Dave Brailsford Cycling – Guardian
- Ronnie O’ Sullivan an amazing pupil- Mirror
- The Chimp Paradox Management
- "Dr. Steve Peters shares training secret: Just speed it". masterstrack.com. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- "Pro Cycling | Team | Team Psychiatrist". Team Sky. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Fotheringham, William (11 April 2014). "British Cycling confirms Sir Dave Brailsford's decision to step aside". theguardian.com. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "BBC Sport – Ronnie O'Sullivan: Luis Suarez will benefit from Dr Steve Peters's help". Bbc.com. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Hart, Simon (24 October 2012). "Dr Steve Peters given role of improving British athletes' mindset – especially our poor relay teams". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- Ingle, Sean (27 April 2015). "British sprinter Adam Gemili is warming up for a hot medal summer". theguardian.com. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
- Pearce, James (24 November 2012). "Liverpool FC appoint top-rated sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
- "BBC Sport – Roy Hodgson recruits psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters for England". Bbc.com. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- "Dr. Steve Peters shares training secret: Just speed it". masterstrack.com. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- "Dr. Steve Peters – The Chimp Paradox. Interview Macs Magazine". YouTube. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2014.