Are you asking your clients to do too much? Setting up a client to ‘win’.

  • Monday, September 26, 2016
  • Shona Innes Psychology


Your client has had some difficult times and likely not a lot of success.

How do you get them back into a competency cycle, so they feel good about what they can do?

When people speak about confidence, I think they generally mean that a person has strength in the belief that they will be able to do something.


In psychology, thanks to Bandura , we call this self-efficacy – the idea that we have capabilities and we have a strong belief in those capabilities. If a person doesn’t think that he or she can do something, then that person may be disinclined to even start and if they do start and they have low self-efficacy, it won’t take much for them to give up if they hit an obstacle or feel like they are failing.

Efficacy has a profound effect on personal development because it affects the challenges people choose to undertake, how much effort they expend, how long they persevere in the face of obstacles and whether they are motivated or demoralised by failure.

Some clients are stuck in a cycle of low efficacy. They have not had much success dealing with their issues, their low self-efficacy makes them reluctant to change meaning they stay stuck.

If left unchecked, low self-efficacy can lead to sabotage or a disinclination to chase up opportunities that you many have worked hard to set up for them.

To break away from this cycle of “there’s no way I can do this”, a person needs some “wins”.

Here are five steps towards getting your client a foothold on that competency cycle and gain some self-efficacy:

  • When choosing a target to change, choose an area that is important to them. It is especially helpful if you can chose something that may be pivotal to opening up other opportunities for them – following up on their interests in music may help them meet other musicians who know people in the industry. Know their goals and yours and remember that starting with one that is more theirs than yours might give you some important momentum.
  • Start them off with something you know they can do. There are patterns of timing and a pattern of experience that are important to the development of self-efficacy. Set the bar low at first. If we have failures, especially at the beginning of trying something, then our belief about our ability is lowered. If mishaps occur early, people can give up. If mishaps occur after some success, the negative impact of occasional failure is reduced. We need to plan for success early if we are teaching someone something that is difficult – start with baby steps that increase the chance that they will be successful early, then throw in a few more difficult challenges between the successes. The rule of successful behaviour intervention was always to set the goal for half of the best you know they can do and keep it at that until you get some successive wins then gradually raise the bar. Once we establish self efficacy, it can generalise to other areas.
  • Remove as many barriers as possible – don’t send them off to an anger management class that is a long way away from where they live or is at the same time that they need to be at work. The day of the appointment, send them a reminder or even organising their transport. Have them visualise with you the “to do” list required to get started and “see” them doing it. If they come up with obstacles in the practice, visualise, run through and help them trouble shoot.
  • Tell them truthful, encouraging things, not just niceties and hollow words of hope, but actual evidence that they can accomplish something. Knowing their history, you can use times when they have had some wins in the past and build on these. Help them with some strategies for their anxiety – difficult and stressful situations get us emotionally aroused. If people feel really anxious, they are less likely to expect success.
  • Follow up to see how they went. If they did not succeed, help them to analyse the bits they did well and the bits that perhaps they could try differently next time.

“We need to do more than tell people what to do – if we want to persuade someone to attempt something we need to also arrange conditions to help them perform, because if we persuade them and they continue to fail then their efficacy and the effects of our persuasion will both drop”

I’m happy to assist with peer consultation, supervision or individually crafted workshops to help you get some momentum going for your client with low self-efficacy.

To find out more, please call Shona Innes Psychology on 0400 150 106 or email or contact us via the website.