Self Monitoring to Change Behavior
Self-monitoring can be used in a number of different ways to help people deal with undesirable behaviors such as alcohol abuse. It is an important element of behavior therapy. The goal is to show the client how changing their behavior can alter the way they feel about themselves. Self-monitoring can also be used as a means to track an individual’s progress towards a desirable goal.
Self-Monitoring is Part of Behavior Therapy
Self-monitoring is just one element of behavior therapy. It can be combined with role playing and a program of rewards for positive actions.
One aim of self-monitoring will be to give the therapist a clearer idea of the client’s exact problems. There will usually be a period of self-monitoring prior to, or directly after, the first session and it will continue along with the treatment. This way it will be possible to judge any progress the client is making.
What is Self-Monitoring?
Self-monitoring is something that all humans do to some extent. There are studies that indicate that people differ in their ability to do this. Some individuals can be described as high self-monitors because they are more willing to adapt their behavior in response to social approval. Low self-monitors are less willing to confirm to social pressures and may even appear to be oblivious to it.
There are different approaches to self-monitoring. It can involve something as simple as a food diary for those who are trying to lose weight. A more involved form of self-monitoring may require documentation that records a range of different actions, feelings, and thoughts.
How Self-Monitoring Works
A good example of self-monitoring is when it is used as a tool for weight loss. The client working this type of program will be expected to keep a full record of everything they eat and drink as well as any physical activity throughout the day. This way the individual will be able to see exactly how many calories they are consuming and the amount they are burning off through the course of a 24 hour period. The client may also be expected to weigh themselves every day and record this information too.
The act of self-monitoring alone can act as a motivator to change. The individual may not want to write down that they have failed at their goals and so will work harder to achieve them. Surprisingly, this type of self monitoring can be just as effective even when the documentation is not going to be shown to anyone else.
Self- Monitoring and Denial
The act of deliberate self-monitoring makes actions and consequences easier to see and understand. Denial is associated with addiction and so the addict may fail to understand that they have a problem. Self-monitoring makes it harder for the individual to ignore undesirable behaviors such as alcohol abuse. If a client is attempting to moderate their alcohol consumption, it will be harder to deny the seriousness of their difficulties when there is a record of their repeated failures.
Tools for Self Monitoring
There are different technologies available that make it easier for people attempting to self-monitor. As well as paper and pen, there are also computer applications that can record information. This type of software can use the data to produce complex graphs. The client may notice correlations that weren’t so noticeable before.
Photographs and video can also be used for self monitoring. Individuals trying to lose weight can have a picture taken before they begin a program. Further photographs can be taken in order to judge progress and to motivate them during periods when they become dispirited. It is also possible to use an audio or video diary to track changes. Some people will find this easier than using pen and paper.
The Effectiveness of Self-Monitoring
Self-monitoring works best when combined with at least one other type of self-regulatory technique such as goal setting or feedback. It may be the most effective single intervention for some types undesirable behavior if the individual is motivated to comply. The real effectiveness of self-monitoring is that it can convince the individual of the extent of a problem.
The Disadvantages of Self-Monitoring
Self-monitoring works best with those individuals who seek social approval. If the client is unperturbed by negative feedback from the therapist, then there will be no motivation for them to change their behavior. This intervention also relies on the willingness of the client to document behavior, thoughts, and feelings honestly in their diaries. Not everyone will be willing to do this. This is an approach that requires high motivation and focus, and these may be attributes that many addicts are lacking.
The act of self-monitoring can lead to high anxiety for some individuals. It can be discouraging to feel compelled to keep reporting or acknowledging their failures. The act of recording a video or audio diary can also be a challenge for some individuals due to anxiety.