Do you know what self-regulation is? What about self-control? Did you know that good self-regulation helps promote behavior change? Kanfer’s self-regulation model talks about all this.

Through his model, Frederick Kanfer establishes that people go through 3 stages when it comes to self-regulation and to achieve a change in the probability of occurrence of their behavior: self-observation, self-evaluation and self-reinforcement.

What is self-regulation?

Self-regulation could be defined as the ability to regulate oneself on a behavioural and emotional level . This is a psychological variable that forms part of the competencies of personal development.

Brown (1998), for his part, defines self-regulation as “a person’s ability to plan, supervise and direct his or her behavior in changing circumstances.

In 1991, Brown developed with Miller a model that assumes that self-regulation is achieved through seven successive processes, which are information input, self-assessment, propensity to change, search, change planning, implementation, and evaluation. A deficit in one (or some) of these self-regulation processes would imply certain imbalances in the self-control of the individual’s behaviour .

For his part, Frederik. H. Kanfer, together with Goldstein, define the concept of self-regulation as the capacity of people to direct their own behaviour .

The Kanfer self-regulation model

According to Kanfer, self-regulation (he also calls it self-control) implies that there is a certain underlying reason for inhibiting a sequence of response that, in other circumstances, could be predicted to have a high probability of occurring.

That is to say, in self-regulation processes there is always a situation where it is very likely that a type of behaviour will occur, but nevertheless the probability of such behaviour appearing is reduced by the person’s own control (or management).

Based on these ideas, the Kanfer self-regulation model serves above all to create the right situations in therapy so that the patient learns to change his problem behaviors.


The stages or phases proposed by the kanfer self-regulation model are as follows:

1. Self-monitoring

Through this state, the person observes his own behavior, in order to identify what he must modify . In some cases, it also includes self-registration of the behaviour.

2. Self-evaluation

In this phase of the kanfer self-regulation model, the person determines some standards, criteria or norms that mark or guide the objectives he or she wants to achieve. By means of these criteria, he can contrast whether the change in behaviour is the one he is looking for or not , depending on his objectives.

3. Self-reinforcement

In self-reinforcement, the person administers consequences (tangible or symbolic), whether positive (in the case that he or she has equaled or exceeded the criteria) or negative (self-punishment, in the case that he or she has not managed to achieve the previously defined criteria. In the latter case, it could also be that they are simply not rewarded in any way.

Characteristics of the psychological model

Kanfer’s self-regulation model is based on the feedback that the person has of his actions , as well as of the consequences that he generates on himself or on the environment. The model highlights the criteria as something fundamental to develop a process of self-correction and self-control, to finally self-regulate.

In itself, self-regulation, according to the author, consists of a self-correcting procedure that would appear only when there are discrepancies, imminent danger indices or conflicting motivational stages . All this would activate the first stage or self-observation system.

But how would behaviour be regulated through the Kanfer self-regulation model? First of all, it would be necessary for the person to feel the need to increase the effectiveness of his own behavior in the face of certain tasks, so that he could self-regulate his behavior. It could also be that the person faces a situation that requires a change in the probability of the appearance of certain behaviors.

Self-control, on the other hand, would imply an aversive state (as opposed to the self-regulatory state); in the face of this aversive state, the person would have to make an effort to modify the probability of the occurrence of one or more responses.


Why do self-monitoring programs arise? In the Kanfer self-regulation model, the company considers a series of reasons or motives that drive the creation and use of this type of program.

On the one hand, this happens because there are many behaviors that are only accessible to the subject himself. Moreover, normally the problem behaviours are related to the cognitive activity and the reactions of the person himself , not being directly observable, so a self-regulatory process is necessary.

Kanfer also considers the need to propose an intervention that proposes change as something positive and feasible for the person, with the aim of increasing their motivation for such change.

Finally, according to Kanfer’s self-regulation model , the intervention should be aimed at teaching the patient how to manage possible relapses or new problems , in addition to trying to address current conflicts or problems.


The processes of self-regulation and self-control are very important in therapy . In relation to the efficiency of psychological interventions, if these two processes are developed effectively by the patient, it is likely that the clinical therapy sessions will be reduced, as well as the activity of the therapist.

Moreover, all this would also benefit and promote a feeling of responsibility and involvement in the patient, who would feel responsible for his changes and progress, thus promoting his self-concept and self-esteem.

Bibliographic references:

  • De la Fuente, J., Peralta, F.J., and Sánchez, M.D. (2009). Personal self-regulation and perception of maladaptive school behavior. Psicothema, 21(4); 548-55.
  • Goldfried, M.R., and Merbaum, M. (1973). A perspective on self-control. In M.R. Goldfried, and M. Merbaum (Eds.), Behavior change through self-control (pp. 3-34). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
  • Kanfer, F. (1986). Implications of a self-regulation model therapy for treatment of addictive behaviors. In W.R. Miller and N. Heather (Eds.): Treating addictive behaviors: Processes of Change. New York: Plenum Press.
  • Kanfer, F.H., and Hagerman, S. (1981). The role of self-regulation. In L.P. Rehm (Ed.), Behavior therapy for depression: Present and future directions (143-179). New York: Academic Press.