self-efficacy in addiction treatment

What is Self-Efficacy?

The self-efficacy theory was originally proposed by Albert Bandura. The Bandura self-efficacy theory is a personal judgment that determines how well or poorly someone copes with a situation based upon the life skills they possess and the situation they are facing. Self-efficacy theory states that this factor affects all areas that people may pursue in life.

Why Does Self-Efficacy Matter in Recovery?

It’s important to recognize self-efficacy in recovery because it helps determine how the process will go for someone. Recovery is not easy and there are many steps required for someone to be successful.

Recognizing self-efficacy levels in patients can be beneficial for medical professionals and therapists during the treatment process. The higher the levels of self-efficacy in recovery, the more likely a patient is to be successful. Attending therapy and focusing on positive outlets are ways that someone can increase their levels of self-efficacy in recovery, thus providing a higher likelihood of success.1


Different Sources for Self-Efficacy

There are many different sources for someone to gain self-efficacy in recovery. Building this trait can help someone stay motivated on the path to sober living and maintain sobriety long-term. According to Simply Psychology, people’s beliefs in themselves are developed by four main sources, including mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and emotional states.2

Mastery Experiences

Mastery experiences in self-efficacy refer to facing a challenge and overcoming it or accomplishing your goals. This sense of accomplishment creates belief in oneself which raises overall levels of self-efficacy. Mastery experiences can be used to create self-efficacy in recovery along the way. Having someone set goals for the recovery process and seeing themselves complete those goals can allow them to feel more secure in themselves as they pursue sober living.

Vicarious Experiences

A vicarious experience refers to seeing someone else succeeding in a similar situation. Witnessing this situation raises levels of self-efficacy by showing someone that they can overcome their current situation too. In recovery, vicarious experiences include showing patients examples of others who overcame addiction or having them interact with someone who has completed the recovery process. The recovery process can be difficult, and it can be helpful to talk to someone who can relate.

Social Persuasion

Social persuasion in self-efficacy refers to hearing positive feedback while undertaking a difficult task. Hearing positive feedback can reinforce someone’s belief that they can achieve their goals. In recovery, social persuasion can be used by giving someone positive feedback as they complete each step of the process. The feedback will make them want to keep going.

Emotional and Physiological States

Emotional and physiological states refer to someone’s overall well-being. If someone is struggling with addiction, they may feel like they have a hard time maintaining a healthy level of well-being. By treating the addiction and motivating someone to take care of their overall health, it can raise their levels of self-efficacy and help them on their path to long-term sobriety.


What Causes Low Self-Efficacy?

Several sources decrease levels of self-efficacy. Treating these sources can be helpful for successful recovery.

Lack of Motivation

When someone struggles with addiction, they may feel lethargic and like it is challenging to get started on the things they want to do. This lack of motivation can hamper someone’s recovery and make them not want to put in the effort needed to be successful. Raising levels of self-efficacy can help increase motivation and lead to higher success rates.

Lack of Honesty

When someone struggles with addiction, they may try to hide it or cover it up. Hiding addiction can lead to sneaky behavior and cause them to be paranoid about being caught. The lack of honesty lowers levels of self-efficacy. In treatment, it is critical to have an open and honest environment that allows those struggling to feel comfortable speaking about issues they are experiencing.


When someone struggles with addiction, they may become unaware of the dangers they are putting themselves in. This complacency can make it difficult to treat addiction, as the individual feels a false sense of satisfaction even though they are struggling. Raising levels of self-efficacy makes someone want to take their sobriety seriously and commit to the recovery process.

Financial Difficulties

Addiction not only takes a physical and mental toll, but it can make someone suffer financially as well. Financial struggles leave an individual feeling defeated, and the stress can make them not want to pursue recovery. Increasing self-efficacy can help them overcome this and get on the right track.

Poor Communication

Addiction can lead to poor communication, social issues, and someone not receiving the help they need. These factors can make them feel like it’s impossible to overcome their addiction. When treating addiction, it is important to work on proper communication so someone can receive the necessary help.


How to Increase Self-Efficacy in Recovery

Discover Ways to Overcome Challenges

During the recovery process, it is necessary to discover new and positive ways to overcome challenges. Recovery is a tough process but learning how to accomplish goals along each step of the way can help to overcome it.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

It is vital to develop healthy coping mechanisms in recovery. Healthy outlets can be beneficial to recovering patients so they can build positive habits rather than relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with life’s stressors.

Building and Maintaining Positive Relationships

The recovery process can help foster positive relationships in someone’s life. Building positive relationships with people who want the best for you is important to feel connected to the healing process and keep going.

Focusing on Mental and Physical Health

Focusing on mental and physical health can aid in the treatment process. Forming healthy habits will keep you on the right track and create positive habits over time.


Other Methods for Maintaining Sobriety

Support Groups

Support groups can be valuable in recovery. These groups introduce you to a supportive environment with like-minded people who understand what you have been through. A support group can help build accountability and create positive relationships in your life.

Positive Distractions

Positive distractions can be serviceable to keep your mind away from the addiction. Such distractions can be a reliable way to find other outlets that you can use to cope with the stresses of life more healthily. Examples of positive distractions include working out, talking to friends or families, or starting a new hobby.

Separating from Risky Relationships or Situations

Part of being committed to recovery means separating from the relationships and situations that are harmful to you. This separation can be a difficult process, but removing yourself from triggering people or situations can help you achieve sobriety. In the end, your overall well-being will benefit from removing negative experiences from your life.3


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