Essay Sample on the Self-Determination Theory

Published: 2023-03-30
Essay Sample on the Self-Determination Theory
Type of paper:  Course work
Categories:  Healthcare Substance abuse Nursing care
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1063 words
9 min read

According to Silva, Marques, and Teixeira (2014), self-determination theory (SDT) is one of the most vital theoretical frameworks used in the contemporary field of health care with a specific focus on nursing. SDT developed out of previous research conducted by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci on the concept of motivation between 1970 and 1980 (Koole, Schlinkert, Maldei, & Baumann, 2018). However, SDT continued to undergo remarkable growth and expansion to the modern version from the theoretical tenets provided by Deci and Ryan in their 1985 book on the topic of motivation (Broeck, Ferris, Chang, & Rosen, 2016). This paper presents a comprehensive review of SDT and describes its application in the nursing scenario of screening cigarette smoking alongside providing effective replacement therapy.

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The aim or SDT is to provide a link between people's personality, their motivation, and the ability to function optimally. The theory works on the premise that there are two main types of motivation, which are powerful forces in shaping individuals' personalities and their behavior (Broeck et al., 2016). These types of motivation include intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and play a vital role in increasing people's drive to take appropriate actions to meet their goals in life.

Concepts and Conceptual Definitions

According to Silva et al. (2014), SDT theory is a theory built on three critical concepts, including individual competence, relatedness, and autonomy. Deci and Ryan also described these three concepts as universal, innate, and psychological needs whose fulfillment leads to optimal growth and functioning. Attaining competence entails seeking to have control over the outcome of one's behavior and actions. Relatedness is the universal desire that people tend to have to interact and get connections with others. Autonomy, on the other hand, refers to people's ability to have control over their lives while acting in harmony with their integrated personalities (Patrick & Williams, 2012). However, the social environment must nurture these crucial needs to actualize their innate potential.

Theoretical Statements

STD has a wide range of theoretical statements that health professionals, such as nurses, need to understand to utilize it effectively (Kruse, North, & Davidson, 2019). First, the theory suggests that many people get motivated and inspired to not only grow but also change by three innate and universal psychological needs. These needs include competence, relatedness, and autonomy. Secondly, STD works on the statement that the need to grow and attain fulfillment plays a vital role in determining peoples' actions and behavior (Silva et al., 2014). Lastly, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators affect the determination of people, which, in turn, plays a significant role in the capacity of people to meet their goals and objectives in life.

Structure and Linkages

STD operates on the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as its critical structures and linkages. Intrinsic motivation refers to the inner drive that a person has toward doing something to attain various goals. In contrast, extrinsic motivation is the inspiration that comes from external rewards and pushes people to do something (Patrick & Williams, 2012). However, research indicates that people with intrinsic motivation can do and achieve more when compared to those with external drive, as the latter relies exclusively on rewards to perform exemplarily.


SDT works on two assumptions. It is critical for people using this theory to understand these assumptions to apply them effectively (Kruse et al., 2019). First, SDT assumes that the need for growth drives individuals' behavior and actions. This assumption implies that people have various motivational factors that actively direct them toward growth. Therefore, gaining appropriate mastery of skills, knowledge, and experience to overcome the associated challenges is crucial in attaining individual competence. Secondly, STD works on the assumption that autonomous motivation is vital as opposed to gaining inspiration from external rewards, such as money, prizes, and acclaim (Broeck et al., 2016). Therefore, SDT focuses exclusively on internal sources of motivation, such as the need to gain knowledge and become independent.

Nursing Implications

STD has significant implications when applied in different healthcare fields, including nursing. Healthcare professionals can use STDs to motivate patients to strictly adhere to various diagnoses and the medical procedures needed to attain the desired outcomes (Patrick & Williams, 2012). For instance, STD can be a critical conceptual model when applied in the context of screening cigarette smoking and providing replacement therapy. First, nurses can deploy STD to educate the target smokers on the dangers associated with cigarettes and allow them adequate time to think critically before making decisions on whether to quit (Koole et al., 2018). Secondly, nurses can rely on the dangers associated with smoking and the corresponding benefits of stopping the action from creating intrinsic and extrinsic motivation among the target population. This motivation is crucial in ensuring that the target smokers quit their bad behavior to avoid the adverse health effects associated with smoking (Kruse et al., 2019). Lastly, nurses can effectively rely on the smokers' intrinsic motivation to ensure that they embrace, utilize, and benefit from replacement therapy.


STD remains one of the most vital theoretical models used in the field of nursing. The theory relies exclusively on individual motivation as a critical factor in achieving various goals in life. However, competence, relatedness, and autonomy are also significant determinants of self-fulfillment and success in life. Therefore, nursing professionals should have a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of this theory to utilize it effectively in their daily operations, as discussed in this paper.


Broeck, A . V., Ferris, L. D., Chang, C., & Rosen, C. (2016). A review of self-determination theory's basic psychological needs at work. Journal of Management, 42(5), 1195 -1229. Retrieved from

Koole, S. L., Schlinkert, C., Maldei, T., & Baumann, N. (2018). Becoming who you are: An integrative review of self-determination theory and personality systems interactions theory. Journal of Personality, 1(1), 15-36. Retrieved from

Kruse, A. E., North, A. C., & Davidson, J. W. (2019). Using self-determination theory to examine musical participation and well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 1(2), 1-10. Retrieved from

Patrick, H. & Williams, G. C. (2012). Self-determination theory: Its application to health behavior and complementarity with motivational interviewing. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 18(1), 11-20. Retrieved from

Silva, M. N., Marques, M., & Teixeira, P. J. (2014). Testing theory in practice: The example of self-determination theory-based interventions. The European Health Psychologist, 6(1), 171-180. Retrieved from

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