Temple University

This is the fourth in a biweekly series spotlighting the men and women behind the scenes supporting Temple Athletics.

Edward Darraha Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Pennsylvania and a Board Certified Counselor through the National Board of Certified Counselors, joined the Temple Athletics staff as a Mental Health & Performance Counselor in November, 2018.

Darrah, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Neumann University in 2009, also played Division III baseball during his tenure. Upon graduation, he completed an internship that focused on sport performance within a private practice in Bethlehem, Pa.

Subsequently, Darrah attended La Salle University, graduating with a master’s in clinical counseling-psychology with a concentration in organizational consulting, in May 2012. He completed his practicum at Amtrak within the company’s Employee Assistant Program in New York City. His clinical internship was at Northeastern Health Services (NHS) and consisted of long-term counseling for individuals and families of Delaware County. In addition to his graduate work and clinical placements, Darrah worked as an assistant baseball coach at Arcadia University for two seasons.

Darrah came to Temple with a robust background in mental health counseling and sports performance. Most notably, Darrah has owned and operated a private practice on the Main Line since 2015. Within his practice at Edward Darrah Counseling & Athlete Wellness, he has worked with high school, collegiate, and professional athletes, focusing on wellness and sports performance. Over the past three years, Darrah has provided athlete wellness and performance workshops and talks for the First Tee Foundation, AAU Baseball Teams and varsity teams on the Main Line. This past spring, he was invited to join as a panelist at the Northeast Atlantic Sport Psychology Conference at Temple University to discuss the topic of Athlete Wellness.

Why did you choose to get into the field of mental health, and working with student-athletes?
“I did not know what I wanted to do for the longest time. I just knew I wanted to be involved with college sports. I played baseball, but during the summer I would caddy. Before going to college, I was caddying for a lawyer and a heart surgeon, and they asked what I was going to do when I went to school, and I said I was planning to do something in sports and play baseball. They suggested I look into becoming a sports psychologist (since I was helping them with mental skills as a caddy). At that point I did not even know what a sports psychologist was. That led me on the path of researching the field and changing my major to psychology. Then I later pursued a graduate degree in clinical-counseling psychology and emerged myself in learning about mental health.

Working with student-athletes when I was at Arcadia University as an assistant coach, I really enjoyed working with them and I knew that was something I would look into doing. Then it became my niche when I started my private practice.”

As a Student-Athlete yourself, did you feel there was a glaring need for more mental health professionals on athletics staff?
“As a player I utilized our (mental health) services at Neumann University, but they did not specialize in sport. A lot of my teammates were resistant, and they certainly could have benefited from it. When I was at Arcadia University there was a lot of student-athletes that I saw could benefit from mental health services. There was a lot of stigma back then, but there was also no direct access to care. There was a gap in how we were supporting student-athletes. Student-Athletes had access to athletic trainers, team physicians, physical therapists, but there was no support for the mental health and wellness of a Student-Athlete. So, both as an athlete and as a coach I could observe a glaring need for a more holistic approach to student-athletes who.”

Talk about your path to work at Temple University?
“What is interesting about the mental health field is that there is no direct route to get to an athletic department or a professional organization in sport. That was a part of my educational journey. I did a lot of networking with professionals in the field, and I was lucky enough to get connected with two prominent individuals in the field, Jim Brennan, who was at Villanova as their performance consultant and Jared Spencer who is a sport psychologist in the Lehigh Valley.

Right after college I got to intern with them. They gave me a lot of great insight that I continue to lean on today. In terms of my path, networking was a large part and I pieced together an educational background and experience that would lead me to my goal of working with student-athletes at a university. I did my master’s at La Salle. They did not have sports psychology, so I specialized in industrial organizational psychology which was a sub area of ​​performance.

From there I did some coaching and some studying with sports psychology while taking courses outside of my graduate program. After I received my degree, I started a private practice in Wynnewood (Pa.). I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I was trying to build a caseload with my background in sports and I started to get a lot of athletes coming to my office for sports psychology work.

As my work went on a lot of the athletes, I was seeing started to disclose mental health related issues and concerns they had never spoken about. Then I started to realize that my work started to be more of athletes having a gateway where they could disclose mental health. That is how I started to specialize in athlete wellness.

From there I started to do some speaking events, working with teams from the high school level. I started to see athletes individually and then I met Dr. Coakley at our annual conference for sports psychology as we were on a panel together. She had just started her position at Temple, where she was establishing the department’s mental health services. My years of work came full circle when a position became available.”

You have been here since TUWell started at Temple four years ago, have you noticed a change from the concentrated focus on student-athletes mental health?

“It has been amazing to see the acceptance and priority of mental health among our coaches, staff, and administration. Obviously, a lot of this has been brought to light with Covid but I always talk about Temple being very a progressive and inclusive University. We are looking at always helping our student-athletes get the best services and support possible. An example of this can be observed by our athletic department’s willingness to deploy a comprehensive mental health program geared toward student-athletes in 2017. That was way in advance of most schools in our region. I think that has helped expedite the acceptance with breaking down mental health stigma, which has also helped make it easier for athletes to seek care and be open about their wellness needs.”

Finally, what in your opinion is the next step in terms of dealing with student-athletes mental health?
“We still need more providers at early levels of sport to help educate students proactively on how to manage stress as an athlete. I think that will help build those necessary skills to better manage the transition to college and the demands of being a collegiate athlete. Even a step further is integrated care. One of my goals is to help our athletic department, to have our mental health and sports medicine services, bridge the gap in care so we can be more collaborative and work more closely in treating student-athletes in real time– whether it is a physical injury or mental health symptoms. -We know if we can initiate early interventions, the outcomes are better when treating mental health symptoms. That is where my goal– integrating more holistic and collative care to support our student -athletes.”