What is Self-Efficacy and How Can It Improve Our Quality of Life?

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Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to successfully manage or cope in a particular situation. When we have a low sense of our own self-efficacy, we may feel a lack of self-confidence and control which can lead to distressing feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.

Since Psychologist Albert Bandura published his 1977 research paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” the subject has become one of the most studied topics in psychology. Self-efficacy is an important topic among psychologists and researchers because it can have a profound impact on everything from our psychological states to our behavior and our motivation.

When we want to reach a goal that we have set for ourselves, self-efficacy is essential toself-concept help us move forward towards a positive outcome. This is why people with mood disorders might remind themselves that they have gotten through a depressive episode before and that they have the ability to get through it again. This kind of hope and optimism can help us to see ourselves as capable human beings with the skills to work through tough times.

If we don’t have strong self-efficacy, what can we do? How can we get more of it? Thankfully, there are strategies that we can use to change our efficacy beliefs. The originator of the theory, Albert Bandura describes four sources of efficacy beliefs:

  1. Mastery Experiences

The most powerful source of self-efficacy is having a direct experience of mastering a task or an environment. Having success reaching a goal through effort and perseverance will help us to build our self-efficacy and our belief in ourselves. If we are feeling unsure, we can start with mastering a relatively easy task and then increase the difficulty and complexity as we begin to feel more competent.

  1. Vicarious Experiences

The second source of self-efficacy comes from our observation of people similar to ourselves succeeding while using perseverance and effort to overcome obstacles. Seeing that other people learn and grow can strengthen our beliefs that we too can master the activities needed for success. One great way to increase our vicarious experiences is to read biographies of people who we admire in order to greater understand the paths they took to became “masters” in their field.

  1. Verbal Persuasion

The people who have influenced our development such as our parents, teachers, siblings or coaches may have either strengthened or weakened our belief that we have what it takes to succeed. Having people who persuade us that that we can master the skills needed for life makes it more likely that we will put it the effort and sustain it when we have set-backs.

If we weren’t lucky enough to have people encouraging us to keep trying as we grew up, we can make it a priority as adults to surround ourselves with people who are supportive and who let us know that they believe in our abilities.

  1. Emotional & Physiological States

Our self-efficacy is also impacted by the emotional or physiological state in which we find ourselves. Depression, for example, will decrease our confidence. When we are feeling tired, sad or anxious, we may perceive our self-efficacy as weak. When we are well-rested and happy, we may perceive our self-efficacy as strong. Reflecting on our emotional state before we start a new task will help us to understand that we may be underestimating our abilities. Learning to self-regulate our emotional states and practicing self-compassion can also help us to have more realistic appraisals of our abilities.

Psychologist James Maddux has suggested a fifth route to self-efficacy through “imaginal experiences”, the art of visualizing ourselves behaving effectively or successfully in a given situation. If we can visualize ourselves completing a task successfully or handling a difficult interaction competently, we can increase our optimism about our potential for success.

How do you feel about your level of self-efficacy? Although it is not something that most of think about regularly, we can see that having a belief in our ability to cope and even thrive in life can be a welcome boost to our self-concept and quality of life. Building self-efficacy cannot be done in a day, but each day we can take steps to learn new skills, handle disappointments, and deal with whatever life throws at us.

By Polly Guetta

 

 

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All About Social Anxiety -A Q&A with Clinical Counselor Rose Record

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Rose Record, MA, CCC,  is a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).  She has a Master of Arts Degree in Counselling Psychology completed at the University of British Columbia. Rose is a member of the MDABC therapy team. This fall she will be leading therapy groups for adults on Social Anxiety and Depression, for more information go to www.mdabc.net

In your experience, how can social anxiety get in the way for people who want to feel more connected?

Social anxiety is an experience of fear, worry and/or anxiety in social situations where there is a possibility of being observed and/or scrutinized by other people. This can get in the way of feeling connected to others in many different ways.  It can lead to intense worry or fear of being embarrassed, judged, or not performing well in public and/or social situations.  It can also lead to worry that anxiety will “show” in ways such as trembling, blushing, sweating or being “lost for words”. This fear can be so intense that even thinking about or anticipating being in social situations can feel overwhelming. Common consequences of social anxiety are reduced enjoyment of social situations, limiting participation in social activities, or avoiding being in feared situations or in public altogether.

Which strategies do you use in your therapeutic practice to help clients with social anxiety?

When supporting individuals experiencing social anxiety, the first strategy is often to build an understanding of what is going on during an anxiety response and working together to determine what their unique anxiety situations and anxiety responses are (everyone is different!). Then, we start to break responses down into the thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours involved and identify strategies that can help to re-work the responses. Many of the strategies I use are aimed at looking at our patterns of thinking and challenging/replacing unhelpful patterns of thinking with thoughts that may be more fair and helpful. Through this process, we also start to uncover core beliefs that shape our thinking about others, the world and ourselves. Other strategies are aimed more at shifting behaviors in our lives such as setting goals and taking small steps to reduce avoidance and build tolerance for being in feared situations. Finally, relaxation and mindfulness strategies are introduced to help clients to tune into their bodies, to physically slow down anxiety responses and to build self-acceptance.

Do you find working with clients with social anxiety rewarding?

Absolutely! One thing I love about group therapy for social anxiety is that it provides a safe, supportive space for clients to learn, share, set goals and build coping strategies. Through that process, clients often build confidence, skills and take steps toward doing things in their lives that are important or fulfilling to them, whether that be trying something new, meeting new people or simply becoming more comfortable and confident in social situations in general.  As a therapist, it’s very powerful walking alongside clients in their therapeutic journey.

What can clients expect at the first session of the “CBT for Social Anxiety” course that you are leading?

Our first session is really about establishing a foundation from which we’ll build on for the next 8 weeks.  We’ll spend time talking about the group itself – learning what CBT is (and isn’t), building group goals, and setting up some basic structure to the sessions so everyone knows what to expect each week.  Then, we’ll talk a bit about what social anxiety is and learn the basics of what happens during an anxiety response and how to track it.  Finally, in each session we’ll learn a new relaxation or mindfulness technique and for our first session, we’ll focus on the basics of deep breathing.  In every session, some “homework” is also suggested, which basically consists of ideas for how group members can continue to practice and try out the skills we learned in class throughout the week and start to integrate them into their day-to-day lives.