Motivational Healing: Are they psychological partners?

Rivka A. Edery, Psy.D. (Candidate), M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 


Motivation, both intrinsic (deep-rooted) and extrinsic (based on outside oneself, such as external rewards or to prevent negative consequences), is fundamental to all human behavior. Motivation is applicable to both acquiring new behaviors and endeavoring to create behavioral changes.  Motivation is so important to understand because it determines why someone would engage in a particular activity. Examples of intrinsic motivation include two categories: a primal need (like the need to eat) or learned (like the information of diet and exercise). Extrinsic motivation can be both affirmative (an external positive, like getting a reward) or negative (such as punishment). Reiterated experience to extrinsic motivation may support the creation of intrinsic motivation (Karageorghis, Costas & Terry, Peter, 2011).  An example of this would be a student who is rewarded by her parents for getting good grades.  Her parental rewards can help her cultivate a desire to learn.

The simplest purpose of using a motivation to change behavior is to create a habit. An early, and classic example is the research by Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. Ringing a bell (extrinsic motivation) immediately followed by giving the salivating dog food (extrinsic motivation) caused salivating in the dog, in expectation of consuming the food (intrinsic motivation). Eliminating the middle step (giving food) after the behavior was established did not change the salivation effect to the ringing bell (Karageorghis, Costas & Terry, Peter, 2011).

High self-efficacy is related to positive outcomes, which means that people with high self-efficacy are confident in their capacity to achieve even when difficulties are present. In order to prevent a false awareness of self-efficacy by removing the option for failure, goal theories postulated that people should set their own goals.  It is their own goals that should guide their behavior, and what achievement means to them (Repovich, 2019).

TIP #1.  If you don’t have an inner coach, would you consider cultivating one?  Here’s how: a positive, genuinely loving, inner voice that supports you in formulating, structuring, and supporting your goals.  If you need motivation in your healing journey, consider who is in your mental coaching seat, metaphorically speaking.  Consider the opposite: people have “an inner critic”, the counterpart of the supportive coach. Which of these characters has the majority influence in your life?

Coaches have varying techniques they employ in order to persuade their players.  Coaches have been known to impact their client’s behaviors, cognitions, and affective responses (Roberts, Treasure, 2012). Understanding which coaching styles promote positive behaviors, and under which circumstances are experienced, and psychological functioning, affected, is important.  The value in understanding lies in the value of minimizing maladaptive outcomes. Coaches that operate with a controlling style, employ behaviors that insist athletes feel, think, and act in a way coherent with the wants and needs of the coaches.  (Karageorghis, Costas & Terry, 2011).

The opposite of controlling coaching behaviors is an autonomy-supportive coaching style. Coaching behaviors relate to the client’s motivational responses.  An authoritative coaching style can positively target characteristics of client motivation.  In my personal examples, it is not something I am comfortable with.  I function much better with a more supportive, positive coaching style.  Autonomy-supportive coaches employ behaviors that recognize the client’s thoughts and feelings; inspire choice, self-initiation, and regulating their behavior.  Most significantly, this style curtails the use of demand and pressure to control others (Amorose, & Anderson-Butcher, 2015).

Employing five different types of imagery

While there are five types of imagery mentioned here, it certainly does not represent an exhaustive list.  Imagery is defined as an experience that simulates real experience and encompasses using a combination of diverse sensory modalities in the lack of actual perception. White and Hardy clarified that “we can be aware of ‘seeing’ an image, feeling movements as an image, or experiencing an image of smell, taste or sounds without experiencing the real thing” (1998: 389), whereas Moran outlined imagery as “perception without sensation” (2004: 133).  What is agreed upon among definitions is the idea that people are self-aware and conscious throughout the imagery experience (Richardson, 1969).

Amongst coaches and sports performers, imagery is a well-accepted and popular strategy for improving various aspects of performance.  Consider the following example of how this strategy is reflected.  A football player uses imagery before a major event, imagining different plays, which has not been thought of previously, as to how to pass the ball.  By taking into consideration the specific strengths of each team-mate to whom the player is passing the ball.

Imagery use can be very effective in achieving various cognitive, affective and

behavioral consequences.  The five types of imagery include: 1) Cognitive specific (CS) is the imagery of skills or exercises, 2) cognitive general (CG) is the imagery of strategies, plans, and routines, 3) motivational specific (MS) is the imagery of explicit goals and goal-oriented behavior, 4) motivational general arousal (MGA): imagery of emotional and somatic experiences, and 5) motivational general mastery (MGM): imagery of managing and mastering a challenging condition (Cumming, & Ramsey, 2009).

TIP #2.  Take the time to imagine your current struggle in great detail.  Now imagine your new inner coach in your presence, giving you the exact advice or support you need with this problem.  Write down your guidance and follow through within any time frame that feels right.

Self-determination Theory (SDT)

SDT is a wide-ranging outline for understanding human personality and motivation.  This framework underscores people’s intrinsic tendencies toward growth and self‐actualization.  Such growth and self-actualization are completed by the satisfaction of essential psychological needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Modern personality science studies what it takes to reveal a person’s full potential (Roberts, & Treasure, 2012).

SDT has been expanded to ascertain universals in human differences and nature to represent momentary experiences.  Also, it maps out large‐scale cultural and social processes. Furthermore, discernments from SDT have been applied globally, in such vital life domains as education, close relationships, work, and mental health treatment (Koole, Schlinkert, Maldei, & Baumann, 2019).  As a student of psychology, personality, and motivation, I am an enthusiastic admirer of SDT.  My own professional and personal work in this area has been led by personality systems interactions. SDT has stressed a first‐person perspective, which emphasizes the subjective experience.

Such subjective experience is a causal factor of motivation and personality. In comparison, other similar theories have emphasized a third‐person perspective. A third-person perspective focuses factually on observable, somewhat unconscious competencies that motivate motivation and personality. Expressions like “developing the person’s potential” and “becoming who you really are”, is what SDT proposes in terms of chronological background, central propositions, methods, and findings (Koole, Schlinkert, Maldei, & Baumann, 2019).

Psychological Barriers

Each person has, either built up during their life or “inherited” situations that foster psychological barriers.  Such psychological barriers, real or imagined, are usually generated by not imagining that one can achieve something. How could one handle things differently to create a more positive expectation?  The suggestion is to honestly acknowledge what your true desire is in this matter.  Freedom in some areas, is usually a common human motivator, especially in the arena of healing.  To conclude, I leave you with Tip #3, or rather, a final challenge.  May the forces be with you, as you soldier on in your recovery journey.

Tip #3.  With utmost honesty, pick one of your greatest difficulties. Consider one significant, concrete aspect of which you do have control (e.g., attitude, thinking, inaction, action, beliefs, repetition compulsion of old patterns, etc.).  In a 2-sided column, write the aspects you do have control over, and in the adjacent column, detail if you really believe this is in your control.  How willing, or motivated are you, to step over the threshold, to increase your chances for healing in this arena?


American Psychological Association (2010).   Publication manual of the American Psychological Association.   (6th ed.).   Washington, D.C.

Roberts, G. & Treasure, D.   (2012).   Advances in motivation in sport and exercise.   (3rd ed.).   Human Kinetics.

Karageorghis, Costas & Terry, Peter, C.   (2011).   Inside sport psychology.   (1st ed.).   Human Kinetics.

Repovich, W. E. S. (2019). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.

Amorose, A. J., & Anderson-Butcher, D. (2015). Exploring the independent and interactive effects of autonomy-supportive and controlling coaching behaviors on adolescent athletes’ motivation for sport. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 4(3), 206–218.

Cumming, Jennifer & Ramsey, Richard. (2009). Imagery interventions in sport.

Koole, S. L., Schlinkert, C., Maldei, T., & Baumann, N. (2019). Becoming who you are: An integrative review of self-determination theory and personality systems interactions theory. Journal of Personality, 87(1), 15–36.

Lannin, D. G., Ludwikowski, W. M. A., Vogel, D. L., Seidman, A. J., & Anello, K. (2019). Reducing psychological barriers to therapy via contemplation and self-affirmation. Stigma and Health, 4(3), 247–255.


Rivka A. Edery, Psy.D. (Candidate), M.S.W., L.C.S.W. is a career social worker who has ministered to scores of clients in crisis and deep emotional pain: drug addicts, mentally ill, adolescents at risk, victims of poverty, children of deployed military, and veterans in treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rivka is much more than a clinician, mental health writer, and researcher. She brings her enlightened soul forward to share the truths from her own healing journey that began in childhood. She graduated from Thomas Edison State University with a Bachelor’s in Social Science, and earned her Master of Social Work degree, with a research track, from Fordham University, in New York City. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) program with California Southern University, School of Behavioral Sciences, Field of Study: Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology. Rivka became a psychotherapist and published her landmark book ‘Trauma and Transformation: A 12 Step Guide’ in 2013. She clinically systematized the tools of the spiritual Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Her book brilliantly brings into focus the spiritual dimension, as an essential dynamic in healing, from early childhood trauma and addiction. The exposition of this synthesis, between the spiritual tools and the clinical tools, has expanded the access to the revered Twelve Step program beyond the addiction community, to P.T.S.D. patients with all types of symptoms.

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