Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is a psychological framework that focuses on how people learn and develop through their interaction with the environment. This theory emphasizes the importance of cognitive processes, such as attention, memory, and motivation, in shaping behavior. In therapy, SCT can be used to help individuals change their behavior by addressing their thoughts and beliefs.

Understanding Social Cognitive Theory

SCT was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1970s. Bandura believed that individuals learn through observation, imitation, and modeling. According to SCT, behavior is not simply a result of environmental factors or personal characteristics; rather it is a complex interplay between these two factors.

One of the key concepts in SCT is self-efficacy, which refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to perform a specific task or achieve a particular goal. Self-efficacy can be influenced by various factors such as past experiences, social support, and feedback.

Using SCT in Therapy

SCT has been widely used in therapy to help individuals change their behavior by addressing their thoughts and beliefs. The goal of therapy using SCT is to increase an individual’s self-efficacy so they can take steps towards achieving their goals.

One way therapists use SCT is through modeling. By observing others who have successfully changed similar behaviors or accomplished similar goals, clients can gain confidence in their own abilities. Therapists may also use role-playing exercises where clients practice new behaviors in a safe environment.

Another way therapists apply SCT in therapy is through cognitive restructuring techniques. This involves identifying negative thought patterns that may be hindering progress towards goals and replacing them with more positive and realistic thoughts.

Examples of Using Social Cognitive Theory in Therapy

For example, let’s say a client wants to quit smoking but feels overwhelmed by the idea of quitting cold turkey. A therapist using SCT might first help the client identify their negative thoughts about quitting, such as “I’ll never be able to do it” or “I need cigarettes to cope with stress.” Then, through modeling and cognitive restructuring, the therapist can help the client develop more positive thoughts and behaviors.

The therapist might also encourage the client to seek social support from friends or family members who have successfully quit smoking. By observing others’ success and gaining support from others, the client’s self-efficacy can increase, making it more likely they will successfully quit smoking.


Social Cognitive Theory is a powerful tool for therapists to help clients change their behavior by addressing their beliefs and thoughts. Through modeling, role-playing exercises, and cognitive restructuring techniques, therapists can help clients increase their self-efficacy and take steps towards achieving their goals. By incorporating SCT into therapy sessions, clients can learn new skills and behaviors that will benefit them long after therapy has ended.