Building on Social Learning Theory, Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) (as cited in Bandura, 1989; U.S. Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2005) has been a mainstay in psychology since 1986 when Albert Bandura explored the relationship between the individual, his or her personal traits, the physical environment, and society, and how each of theses factors impact and influence the others. Since this time, SCT has shown to have increasing applicability across the spectrum of health education. Using SCT to focus on these relationships, the health practitioner can understand that individuals are able to overcome obstacles to their health with an increased sense of responsibility, motivation, and control (U.S. Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2005). By allowing an individual to understand that they can shape their environment just as their environment shapes them, the individual regains their locus of control, motivation, and sense of self.
A dynamic process, SCT has been used successfully to assess treatment techniques, improving on areas lacking in benefit. Brand and Nyland (2009) identify that 30-35% of patients with anterior cruciate ligament repair do not recover to their preinjury level of activity participation; however, they have identified that, using SCT, bolstering pre- and postoperative self-efficacy levels could ultimately improve a patient’s return to the preinjury activity level. Analyzing and identifying psychological factors which inhibit a sense of self-efficacy, allow the health practitioner more opportunity to improve overall success in surgery and rehabilitation.
In recent years, innovative researchers have been exploring other positive roles where SCT may be employed, including the creation of internet-based grief counseling programs. Dominick et al., (2009) show that identification of an individual’s grieving style can assist with forming adaptive cognitive therapies which, even provided in an online format, can assist the uncomplicated griever by positively affecting attitude, self-efficacy, and increasing knowledge about their personal grieving style.
SCT’s adaptive and dynamic nature allows for the health practitioner to analyze a problem and apply the theory’s constructs to change as much or as little as necessary for the development of a working solution with specific focus and control. In this way, SCT allows program development to follow a structured and informed methodology allowing a higher percentage of success.
Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), six theories of child development. Annals of child development, 6, 1-60. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Brand, E. & Nyland, J. (2009, May). In D. L. Johnson (Ed.), patient outcomes following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: the influence of psychological factors. Orthopedics, 32(5), 335-340.
Dominick, S. A., Irvine, A. B., Beauchamp, N., Seeley, J. R., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Doka, K. J., Bonanno, G. A. (2009). An internet tool to normalize grief. Omega: Journal of Death & Dying, 60(1), 71-87. doi:10.2190/OM.60.1.d
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. (2005, September). Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice (NIH Publication No. 05-3896). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/PDF/481f5d53-63df-41bc-bfaf-5aa48ee1da4d/TAAG3.pdf