There are many factors that contribute to success in meeting goals such as recovery from addiction. Motivation is important, as is a sober support network. One important characteristic is people’s belief that they have what it takes to overcome challenges. This is sometimes known as self-efficacy.
The American Psychological Association defines self-efficacy as the belief that people hold that they are capable of doing what is necessary to produce given results. They note that people’s evaluations of their capabilities influence the setting of goals and the amount of energy spent on them. They also affect the likelihood of reaching the goals that have been set.
Self-Efficacy in Addiction Recovery
A 2015 study reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse examined factors associated with recovering from addiction. The study identified variables that helped patients become abstinent and those that helped them remain abstinent for an extended period of time. There was overlap between the lists, but they were not identical.
One personal characteristic that appeared on both lists was self-efficacy. Patients with higher self-efficacy were confident in their ability to use the skills they had been taught in treatment. Patients currently in outpatient treatment who were still using cocaine were interviewed. Those with high self-efficacy had a 35 percent likelihood of being abstinent at the next interview, compared to almost no likelihood for those with low levels. Among patients who were already abstinent, those with high levels of self-efficacy had more than an 80 percent chance of remaining abstinent for the next interview, compared to 40 percent for those with low scores.
Developing Belief in Yourself
Self-efficacy is thought to develop in a number of ways. The website Education.com explains that the psychologist Albert Bandura developed self-efficacy theory. He posited that beliefs come from mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasions and physiological reactions.
Mastery experiences involve the interpretation of past success. Performing a task successfully builds confidence that future attempts will also be successful. Vicarious experiences, or social modeling, involves drawing confidence from the successes of others. Social persuasion is the encouragement individuals get from other people, and physiological reactions are the moods and feelings that are the backdrop for the way in which people interpret events.
Ways to build self-efficacy include the following:
- Build on small successes. Make a small, manageable change in order to boost your confidence. Set another small goal, and when it is reached, set another.
- Remember past achievements. Taking time to remember when past goals were met can build a sense of confidence and belief in yourself. It is especially helpful to think of times when goals were accomplished that initially seemed too difficult or unreachable.
- Follow someone’s lead. Finding role models with whom to identify can help build a sense of possibility. If others who share characteristics with you can overcome challenges, it can bolster the belief that you can do it, too.
- Find ways to boost your mood. Take time to relax and do things you enjoy. Address any mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
- Pay attention to your support system. Some people are more naturally encouraging than others. Try to spend more time with people who encourage than with those who don’t.
- Acknowledge and address negative thought patterns. It is natural to have periods of self-doubt, but all thoughts don’t need to be accepted as truth. Acknowledge the thoughts, examine their validity and counteract them.
The Support of Others
Self-belief may develop somewhat differently in males and females. A 2005 article in the American Journal of Community Psychology reported on a study of social support and self-efficacy for patients recovering from substance addiction. The study found that time in treatment related to increased self-efficacy and to decreased support for alcohol and drug use. The authors found, however, that for women, social support mediated the link between treatment and increased self-efficacy, but the same was not found for men.
There are a number of practices that therapists may use to help their patients build belief in themselves. One is motivational interviewing (MI). A motivational interviewing assessment notes that MI is intended to help patients resolve ambivalence. Treatment providers aim to express empathy, develop discrepancy, roll with resistance and support self-efficacy.
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