Addiction Recovery and Self Efficacy What is Self Efficacy and Why is it Important in Sobriety?

Bill Urell

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High self-efficacy in addiction recovery can greatly increase the likelihood of long lasting sobriety, But what is it?

Self-efficacy is a fancy way of saying that one has belief in their capabilities of attaining a certain goal, behaving or performing a certain way. It is the idea that we have the power to accomplish what we are setting out to do or manage the situation. Whether or not we can really do it is not the point, we believe we can. Self- esteem relates to self-worth, self efficacy relates to our perception of our ability to accomplish a goal.

Why the lesson? I was looking through some professional addiction journals where empirically valid and controlled studies are published. I discovered high self-efficacy is related to good outcomes in sobriety. It makes sense, if we truly believe that we are capable and have the ability to get and stay sober, our chances are greatly increased.

If, on the other hand, we were operating from a position of hopelessness and fear, it would make sense that the likelihood of a good outcome is much less likely to occur. Where am we going with this?

A study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment Nov, 23 2007, “Predictors of changes in alcohol-related self-efficacy over 16 years. " by McKellar J, Ilgen M, Moos BS, Moos R. , looked at over 400 people over a 16 year period. A long term study such as this is called a longitudinal study. These are seldom found in addiction treatment due to the difficulty in retaining participants.

It was indicated that these factors, if applied in the first year sober affected outcomes and actually predicted increased self-efficacy over 16 years.

The study urged clinicians to focus treatment in that first year on:

1. Identifying and addressing depressive symptoms.

2. Try to engage and keep patients engaged in 12 step AA

3. Improve the patient's coping skills

4. Enhancing and growing a social support network.

There is also a caution to “reduce the risk of relapse by monitoring individuals whose alcohol problems and impulsivity improve unusually quickly. " That statement seems to indicate to watch out for people who have the ‘pink cloud syndrome’ Where everything is a bit too easy and wonderful.

It is interesting to note that regular attendance at 12 step meetings directly handles 3 out of 4 issues mentioned by that research study, the exception being depression. You can draw your own conclusion but mine is that 12 step programs have proven effectiveness in addiction recovery. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Bonus Tip: And now I would like to invite you to access our alcoholism and alcohol answers at our alcohol frequently asked questions page. You may also claim our Free, massive Recovery Help Resource Guide. To gain instant access, visit us at:

Thank you from Bill Urell and the Addiction Recovery Basics Network.


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