By combining the therapeutic power of group exercise, the emotional and psychological support that being on the same ‘team’ can offer and evidence-based interventions, such as dynamic interpersonal therapy and reflective practices, we want you to develop essential life skills that transcend the game. You will learn effective coping mechanisms, resilience-building strategies, and interpersonal communication tools that will empower you not only on the pitch but in your daily life. 

Facilitated by David Polak, a qualified psychotherapist and UEFA Level 2 football coach, David has over twenty years’ experience in mental health and a passion for combining football with therapy. 

Whether you are a lifelong football enthusiast or have never kicked a ball before, this programme welcomes everyone with open arms. It’s not about skill level – it’s about the spirit of camaraderie, resilience, and self-discovery that football fosters. 

Who is it for?

The Football for recovery group is open to day patients who are physically well enough to take part, and who have an interest in playing and learning more about football in a fun and supportive environment. 

You don’t need to be a professional footballer, but a level of physical fitness will be required to get the most out of this group. If you can play a social game of football, you will have no problems with engaging in the group. 

There are various criteria which could exclude patients from engaging in the programme, including:  

  • The group is not suitable for people in active addiction or those experiencing psychotic symptoms
  • The group is not suitable for people under the age of 18
  • The group is not suitable for people with physical health injuries or increase risk of physical health injury due to the strenuous physical activity component of the group 

What will the group include?

The group will be split into two separate components – a football skills and training session and a process group afterwards. 

The football session will involve learning basic skills of the game through fun activities and may involve playing a match. 

The process group after the football game will be a chance for group members to reflect on their challenges, share about their recovery and engage in a therapeutic group.

What are the benefits?

Five benefits of Football for recovery group

Happy and relaxed  

Physical activity triggers a variety of chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Knowing these benefits of physical activity, engaging in a team sport like football will also provide social connections and unity that will be a valuable therapeutic tool. 

Concentration and decision making  

Football is a sport that demands mental agility, concentration, and quick decision-making. It’s a game that requires you think throughout and will help sharpen your cognitive skills and stimulate brain activity. The constant need to strategise, anticipate movements, and make split-second choices enhances your ability to focus and think critically. These mental benefits extend beyond the game, supporting your overall cognitive functioning and contributing to improved mental wellbeing. 

Stress relief 

As you play a game of football, the physical exertion helps release tension and reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body. Simultaneously, the production of mood-enhancing hormones, such as endorphins, is stimulated, creating a natural and lasting mood boost after the game is over. The combination of physical exertion, mental focus, and camaraderie acts as a powerful buffer from daily stressors, allowing you to find a distractor or release from daily stressors. 

Improved sleep 

Football can be hard work and it can tire you out (depending how hard you work of course). In turn, this will help improve the quality of your sleep, helping you fall asleep faster and into a deeper sleep. A good sleep is essential for restoring your body, improving your outlook on the day ahead and helps boost your mood. It can also contribute to and boost your cognitive abilities such as concentration, attention and mental agility. 

Group support 

Facilitated by a qualified and highly experienced therapist, you will have the opportunity to engage in process groups after the football sessions. The process group creates a space to reflect on issues relevant to group members. The group bond forged on the football pitch deepens the levels of engagement and solidarity within the therapeutic space. By first connecting through the game, we will create a relaxed and open environment where sharing thoughts and feelings becomes more accessible. 

Who is running it? 

David Polak is a qualified psychoanalyst and psychotherapist with over twenty years’ experience in mental health, including having worked previously in the Nightingale Hospital therapy department. He is also a qualified UEFA Level 2 football coach, actively coaching a grass roots football team. He has facilitated similar footballing-based projects in rehabs and has a passion for combining football with therapy. 

How do I join the group? 

Please contact our Day Therapy Services for more information about the group, its schedule and to put your name on the group list, please complete the form below. 

Football for recovery

Please use this form to show your interest in the 'Football for recovery' day therapy programme.


How do I refer a patient?

To ask any questions or make a referral, please email:

Frequently asked questions

No. Patients can join this group without being under a Nightingale Hospital psychiatrist or having a psychiatric assessment. However, you will need to be registered with a general practitioner and provide their details to participate in the group. David Polak will do an initial assessment to ensure patients are suitable for the day therapy group.
Because of the emphasis on teamwork, group support and understanding dynamics within the group, patients will need to commit to attend each week of the six-week group. We understand that circumstances may arise which could affect one’s ability to attend a week, but this will be discussed on an individual basis with David Polak.
The group sessions will run across two locations. The football skills and training sessions will be held at Sports Hall in a leisure centre within a 10-minute walk from the hospital. The leisure centre has changing room and locker facilities which are available for use. The process groups after the football session will take place in one of the group rooms in our outpatient therapy building on Bell Street.
The football for recovery group will run on Wednesday afternoons. For more information about the exact timing, please submit an enquiry to our day therapy team.
Generally, private health insurers will not cover this group therapy. Therefore, this group will be self-funded.
The football for recovery group is a half-day group, consisting of two groups – the football game and a process group after. As with all half-day groups at Nightingale Hospital, the cost is £270 per half-day or £208.50 for Nightingale Hospital patients leaving inpatient care and transitioning to day therapy. Payment will be required in advance of the six-week group, so the total cost will be £1,620. For inpatients transitioning to day therapy, the total cost will be £1,251.

Enquire about this treatment

Please contact us to find out more.

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“When you have a problem and you drink, take drugs or gamble, the problem won’t go away. Stay and tackle the problem”