Self-efficacy is the belief that we can achieve influence over the conditions that affect our life. Specifically, self-efficacy is a strength that emanates from within us, that focuses our cognitive processes, our emotional reactions, and our behavioral patterns on the management of our disease. The theory of self-efficacy was developed in the 1970s by Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura and evolved from social learning and social cognitive theory. Bandura is often cited as one of the four most eminent psychologists of the 20th century.

Self-efficacy impacts the quality of lifeOur belief in our own capability to produce positive outcomes from our actions determines what we are able to do with the knowledge and skills we have. Our self-efficacy beliefs are more about what we think we can do with our skills than about what skills we have. Self-efficacy is about having the confidence to be able to integrate our skills into a course of action and perform under a specific set of circumstances and challenges, such as managing a chronic, progressive disease. Our self-belief influences our thought processes, emotional state, motivation, and patterns of behavior. It influences the challenges we undertake, the effort we expend, and our perseverance in the face of difficulties.

Develop stronger self-efficacyDr. Bandura created a four-pronged approach to help individuals develop self-efficacy behaviors. The four main sources of self-efficacy are Mastery, Vicarious Learning, Physiological Feedback and Positive Reinforcement.

  • Mastery is achieved by setting goals and reaching them. Success reinforces our belief that we can increasingly influence the conditions affecting our lives.
  • Vicarious Learning. Seeing others in a similar situation succeed through their own determined efforts raises the belief that we, too, can overcome the specific challenges we face.
  • Physiological Feedback. Our bodies send us signals that influence our degree of confidence. Tension, stress, and anxiety lower confidence while a positive emotional state enhances it.
  • Positive Reinforcement. Feedback and encouragement strengthen our belief that we have what it takes to succeed. We’re motivated by the expectations of our peers.

Self-Efficacy: Improving the Quality of Life of Parkinson’s Patients provides an overview and resources related to self-efficacy as well as a tool for patients to assess current levels of self-efficacy in managing Parkinson’s.

Diane Cook, Project Spark's senior patient advocate, is a management consultant for Cook & Company focusing on leadership development and training. Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008, Diane has applied the skills and experience she has developed over a professional lifetime to assist those with Parkinson’s disease and the organizations that serve them. Diane has used Dr. Bandura's approach in self-efficacy education programs and support groups for hundreds of people with Parkinson’s.

In 2013, Diane founded the Self-Efficacy Learning Forum and, with grant support from the Colorado Neurological Institute, created the Self-Efficacy Learning Forum Curriculum.

Self-Efficacy Learning Forum Resources Diane has made multiple presentations about the effectiveness of self-efficacy in improving the quality of life of Parkinson's patients. Diane's most recent presentations are included here. Hidden Parkinson’s: Facing Challenging Complexity with Diminishing Capacity was presented by Diane at the NY Academy of Sciences in 2015. Meeting PD Quality of Life Challenges Through Self-Efficacy was presented by Diane at the World Parkinson's Congress in 2013.

In collaboration with the Colorado Neurological Institute and the University of Denver, Diane helped author two reports of the effectiveness of self-efficacy learning programs for new diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease patients and their care partners. The first report was presented in June 2013 at the 17th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Sydney, Australia. The second report was presented in October 2013 at the 3rd World Parkinson Congress in Montreal.

Additional resources

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

American Parkinson Disease Association

National Parkinson Foundation

Parkinson’s Action Network

Michael J. Fox Foundation