Self-Efficacy: A Key to Improved Behavior

Assisting adolescents with speaking for themselves (advocacy) is a very important learning task.  Having a parent or guardian advocate for their children is a tricky process.  There is a fine line between rescuing and advocacy.  One tends to enhance self-esteem and the other can create a dependence handicap.  Encouragement with making decisions and having ownership of their choices are the steps to self-independence.

At Heritage, we feel this is so important that we measure a student’s ability to achieve self-efficacy with a self-reported tool called a Treatment Support Measure (TSM). “Self-efficacy is broadly defined as a self-perception of one’s ability to perform competently and effectively in a particular task or setting (Bandura 1982, 1989). People with higher perceived self-efficacy see themselves as more likely to achieve the desired outcome in tasks they attempt. A wealth of research has examined the effects of perceived self-efficacy across a variety of social, academic, affective, physical and mental health domains (Cervone & Scott, 1995).”  Improvement in self-efficacy has been reported to have a direct relationship with behavioral symptom reduction.  The more a student improves their flexibility in thinking, the easier the task to achieve assistance from helping adults.  As a teen learns to ask for help with a problem, has another person assist or explain the learning task, the result is immediate satisfaction that “I” can achieve the desired positive outcome.  The more positive outcomes per task, the improvement with thinking that the individual can accomplish what they are challenged.  Accomplishment leads to bolstered self-efficacy which impacts improved management of depression, anxiety, mood swings, etc.

In the learning lesson, I observed a teen about to transition from our community at Heritage to a less restrictive setting.  The problem arises when the adults receiving the child have an idea of services offered versus the adolescent idea of services needed.  These processes can be very distressing and anxiety inducing for the child, parents, discharging team and receiving members of the transition agency.  As the teens’ emotions rise, so do the other members of their human interaction.  I witnessed the parents of the child listen to the distress, and assist the teenager with speaking about his needs and working from a flexible place of services offered.  This is in contrast to telling the teen what was going to happen in an all or nothing fashion.  The teen could recognize his parents effort in advocating, not rescuing, and the parent could assist their child with a growth opportunity to have responsibility for his emotional regulation.  The teenagers respect for their parents improved.  Hence the modeling of self-efficacy concepts with your teen can be a great advantage to negotiating difficulties in the adult world.  The end result was a positive outcome and improved self-efficacy.  And the TSM scores play an active role in outcome measures. 

John Nielsen
John Nielsen
I have been practicing Social Work with adolescents since 1991. My field of expertise includes residential work as a therapist and teacher. I have worked with a variety of diagnoses using CBT, Sand play, 12 step Substance Abuse, Equine assisted therapy and exploring standard measures as tools to assist the health of teens. My current interest is using research measurement and assessment to advance the science of psychotherapy. I am married and have four adult children. I spend free time in the outdoors and my passion is race horses and golf.

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