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Self-Regulation Theory or SRT is a system of conscious personal health management. As people adjust to their illness and construct their own representations of the new threats to their identity and autonomy, this can generate motivation to get better, to take personal control and responsibility for maximizing their recovery.

Although a doctor may give a patient sound medical advice, the theory states that only with self-regulation will the patient appropriately implement that advice. For medical treatment to be effective, the patient needs to be interested in improving one's own health.

SRT consists of several stages. First, the patient deliberately monitors their own behavior, and evaluates how this behavior affects their health. If the desired effect is not realized, they change their personal behavior. If the desired effect is realized, the patient reinforces the effect by continuing the behavior. (Kanfer 1970;1971;1980)

Another approach is for the patient to realize a personal health issue and understand the factors involved in that issue. The patient must decide upon an action plan for resolving the health issue. The patient will need to deliberately monitor the results in order to appraise the effects, checking for any necessary changes in the action plan. (Leventhal & Nerenz 1984)

Psychological interventions in physical health are often aimed at facilitating these processes

Other aspectsEdit

Outside of health management, self-regulation theory is used to explain the cognitive bias known as illusion of control. To the extent that people are driven by internal goals concerned with the exercise of control over their environment, they will seek to reassert control in conditions of chaos, uncertainty or stress. Failing genuine control, one coping strategy will be to fall back on defensive attributions of control—leading to illusions of control (Fenton-O'Creevy et al, 2003).

Another factor that can help the patient reach his/her own goal of personal health is to relate to the patient the following: Help them figure out the personal/community views of the illness, appraise the risks involved, and give them potential problem-solving/coping skills. These factors can help the patient modify their behavior through internal motivation as opposed to motivation from the health care provider (external motivation).

See alsoEdit

References & BibliographyEdit

Key textsEdit


  • Cameron, L.D. & Leventhal, H. (Eds.) (2003). The self-regulation of health and illness behaviour. New York: Routledge.


  • Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Nicholson, N. and Soane, E., Willman, P. (2003) "Trading on illusions: Unrealistic perceptions of control and trading performance." Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology 76, 53-68.
  • Kanfer 1970;1971;1980
  • Leventhal & Nerenz 1984
  • Leventhal, H., Brissette, 1. & Leventhal, FA. (2003). The common-sense modell of self-regulation of health and illness. In L.D.Cameron & H. Leventhal (Eds.) The self-regulation of health and illness behaviour.New York; Routledge.
  • Leventhal. H.. Meyer, D. & Nerenz, DR. (1980). The common sense representation of illness danger. In .S. Rachman (Ed.). Contributions to Medical Psychology(vol. 2, pp.7-30). New York Pergamon Press.
  • Medley,A. & Worthington, A. (2007) Keeping up with our clients:Self-regulation in brain injury. Clinical Psychology Forum, 175, 37-40

Additional materialEdit



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