Rehab 4 Addiction

Self-efficacy has been defined by the American Psychological Association as “an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments.”

When tackling addiction, it is not just the addiction itself that needs tackling. There are instilled beliefs, thought patterns, habits, and behaviours that also need tackling in order to get through recovery. An example of something that may need to be tackled is self-efficacy in addiction recovery – more specifically, the lack of it.

What Is Self-Efficacy?

Basically, if you have high levels of self-efficacy, you have the self-belief that you can achieve set goals, see obstacles as mere bumps in the road, and setting yourself more goals that you believe you can achieve. Mistakes aren’t failures to those with high self-efficacy. They are learning curves, lessons in what they need to do next to achieve their goals.

Then those with low self-efficacy in addiction recovery are doubtful of their ability to achieve something. So much they may procrastinate, put the work off, see obstacles as failures, and see failures as a fault in themselves as a person. You can see from this why it is important to explore and build upon self-efficacy on the road to recovery from addiction.

Self-Control & Addiction 

Self-efficacy is how one view themselves, makes a judgement about themselves and their ability to perform and achieve something. Self-control is the ability to hinder or stop an impulse reward for something in order to achieve an end goal.

When talking about addiction, the two are inevitably linked. Self-efficacy makes the person believe they can achieve something, which is reinforced by their ability to execute self-control. This then heightens one’s self-efficacy.

Self-Efficacy & Motivation

Although inevitably intertwined, they are not the same thing, nor is one needed for the other. Self-efficacy is the belief to realise a goal, whereas motivation is the want and desire to achieve something. So, for example, you may be set a task in work you have no desire or motivation to undertake.

However, you have the self-efficacy to know you can achieve the task. But obviously, it is true to say that those with high self-efficacy undoubtedly have higher levels of motivation – I mean, if you doubted your ability to achieve something, how could you have a high level of motivation?

How Does Self-Efficacy In Addiction Recovery Work?

Studies found that it isn’t as simple as this person has high self-efficacy: this person has low self-efficacy.’ It revolves around that person developing a strong connection in one on one therapy and being in a place where they believe they are capable of recovery.

Those with high levels of self-efficacy in addiction recovery have the skills and resources to successfully deny and resist their cravings when faced with drink or drug temptations. These people also view relapses or ‘slips’ as a minor obstacle, a setback to control, while those with low self-efficacy have a higher chance of slipping into a full relapse.

Causes Of Low Self-Efficacy

Low self-esteem causes people to greatly underestimate their potential and ability. A history of failures may also have set a psychological precedent that they are set out for failure in recovery. Anxiety also plays a part, where the goal may cause them stress and so they mistake that for the belief that they will not succeed.

According to research undertaken at Stanford University, there are said to be 4 sources of self-efficacy:

  1. Mastery Experiences: This means being successful in overcoming hard’ obstacles such as turning down a drink offer. This is a very testing and challenging situation for those addicted to alcohol and so achieving this will build one’s self-efficacy for the future
  2. Vicariously observing: One will observe the behaviours and success of others in a similar situation to themselves; this will most definitely come from support groups and rehab centres. It is more than making a judgement about their own capabilities; it gives the person a sense of relatability, a ‘look at them, they’re the same as me’ mindset. Instead of an ‘I’m the only one who feels like this, there must be something wrong with me’ belief, observation unites sufferers in a common situation
  3. Verbal Persuasion: Reaffirmations from others such as group peers, therapists, family, friends, that they can achieve something has a sizeable influence upon a person’s self-efficacy
  4. Emotional and psychological state: A lot of us wrongly interpret stress and anxiety with vulnerability and you’re going to fail’. This may be because we associate the feeling with times that we feel as though we have. Tackling this means that we tackle and implement coping mechanisms to deal with these feelings – this will undoubtedly improve Sobriety, unfortunately, isn’t as simple as abstaining from alcohol; as I said before, it’s addressing and tackling the issues that led to being addicted and also it’s continuation
  5. Addictive personality: This is said to be a common trait amongst those with substance use disorders, which needs to recognised and tackled in order to build self-efficacy
  6. Self-sabotaging/unhealthy coping mechanisms: These may be other unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, withdrawal from peers, negative self-talk. Self-sabotage means knowingly or unknowingly putting themselves in a situation where they are likely, if not certain, to fail
  7. Thought patterns and belief system: The final cause of low self-efficacy is negative thought patterns and belief systems instilled in that person. Thoughts such as “I can’t do this” are prevalent, but need to be changed to “I will try my best to do this” and “I can do this.” This can be attained through therapy, motivational enhancement, and cognitive-behavioural therapy

7 Common Obstacles to Recovery from Addiction

There are several different obstacles that can get in the way of your recovery and developing your self-efficacy in addiction recovery. Here are some of the most common obstacles in recovery from addiction:

1. Lack of motivation

It’s normal and easy for bouts of lack of motivation to come about, there will be times where it feels harder than others. Maintaining strong relationships, attendance to therapy and group meetings will all play a part in keeping this motivation.

2. Financial difficulties

Developing new mental tools in budgeting and a new responsibility towards money will increase self-efficacy as you will be better equipped to deal with matters you may not have once had any knowledge about or how to handle.

3. Lack of honesty

It’s important to be honest about your feelings; bottling them up is one aspect of behaviour which will have to change in order to make progress mentally.

4. Lack of participation

You may not always feel like going to that meeting or speaking up when it’s your turn to share, but when you continue to do things despite, how you feel about them, you’ll develop the discipline you need to stay committed to your recovery regardless of the season of life you’re in.

5. Complacency

This is the false and dangerous thinking you’ve done enough and are in a sense recovered. However, recovery is an ongoing work. It may get easier’ in a sense, but the work has to keep going.

Being sober means constant self-awareness; analysing your behaviours and actions and asking how you can improve. But it’s also about congratulating yourself for what you are already doing.

6. Lack of communication skills

Lack of communication with peers and those you feel connected to will set you on the path to relapse. It’s understandable that not every day you’ll feel like attending a meeting or speaking about your feelings.

This is usually because the substance they are trying to abstain from is the one they relied on to ease any social anxiety, or to socialise full stop. This sometimes means starting from square one, learning how to have conversations sober, in an alcohol-free environment.

This may feel somewhat exposing, there’s no alcohol or drugs to fall back on and gain that extra confidence, but once mastered this can be a great way to build self-efficacy.

7. Lack of commitment

Commitment isn’t just saying ‘I’m not going to drink.’ It means walking away from certain friends and habits – usually, the ones that led you to alcohol abuse and substances misuse. It’s about walking away from certain environments, places, thought processes, beliefs. They are all intertwined.

So How Do I Improve My Self-Efficacy?

Below is a list of tips to help you overcome low self-efficacy while you are working through your recovery from addiction: [6]

Overcome obstacles in recovery – and congratulate yourself for doing so. It is important to understand that there will be many obstacles, but you need to acknowledge this so that you know you have the ability to overcome them. Once you do overcome them, your self-efficacy will no doubt increase.

Maintain relationships with peers in recovery – your peers will have walked in your shoes in some way, even if only a few steps. They are the ones you can relate to and who relate to you.

You will see them overcome obstacles and realise their goals in sobriety and in turn this will motivate you, increasing self-efficacy. Peers provide support, encouragement and a listening ear.

Prioritising your emotional and psychological wellness – taking care of your mind is paramount; it’s the driving force of your recovery, the thing that is going to get you through it.

This can be a hobby such as painting, or exercise, reading. This also ties in with the point above: maintaining a relationship with your peers is essential for emotional and psychological wellness. This is vital to building self-efficacy.


Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.