What is Self-Management?

Self-management is when a person applies behavior change strategies in a way that promotes a predetermined change in their behavior (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2014).

Self-management can involve very small actions by the person or it can involve much more complex plans and actions.

Self-management assumes that a person is influenced by their environment but that the person himself can change the environment to then change his own behavior.

Purpose of Self-Management

There are four different ways that self-management can be used.

  1. People can utilize self-management to improve their quality of life.
  2. They can use self-management not to stop bad habits and start good habits.
  3. They can use self-management to complete challenging activities.
  4. They can also use self-management to achieve various goals.

Benefits of Self-Management

There are many benefits of using self-management strategies. Some examples include:

  • Another person doesn’t have to be involved with the person ALL the time to help them make positive changes.
  • Generalization and maintenance can more easily be achieved.
  • Learning self-management techniques can generalize to a variety of behaviors.
  • Self-management is a common expectation in everyday life including in an educational setting (at school), in the home (e.g. routines), and in the workplace.
  • Self-management allows the person to have more “control” over their own life rather than having someone else always telling them what to do.

Specific Self-Management Strategies

There are many ways that self-management can actually be used. Self-management is a broad category of behavior-based strategies.

Self-management can include using both antecedent and consequence strategies.

Some examples of antecedent strategies used in self-management include:

  • manipulating motivating operations
  • providing prompts
  • performing the beginning of a behavior chain
  • environmental arrangement (for instance, removing materials that are involved in the undesired behavior or setting up the environment with materials that are involved in the desired behavior)

Some examples of consequence strategies used in self-management include:

  • providing reinforcement to the self for engaging in the target behavior
  • using negative reinforcement or punishment if applicable
  • use small and easy to deliver consequences

Some examples of other types of strategies used within self-management include:

  • self-instruction (or talking to one’s self about the behavior)
  • habit reversal (using incompatible behaviors to interrupt bad habits)
  • systematic desensitization (practicing relaxation within low to high fear or anxiety producing situations)
  • massed practice (performing a behavior over and over again)


Self-monitoring within a self-management program allows the person to gather data and monitor progress (or lack of progress).

Self-monitoring can be recommended for many reasons. One reason is to gather data that a treatment provider or another person cannot collect themselves.

By engaging in self-monitoring, a person can evaluate whether they are meeting their short and long term goals of the self-management program they are working on.

Self-monitoring should be easy to do. It should include enough data but not so much that it gets in the way of the actual performance of the target behavior.

Steps to a Self-Management Program

There are six main steps to creating and using a self-management program (as identified by Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2014).

  1. Specify a goal and define the behavior to be changed.
  2. Begin self-monitoring the behavior.
  3. Create contingencies that will compete with natural contingencies.
  4. Go public with the commitment to change behavior.
  5. Get a self-management partner.
  6. Continually evaluate and redesign the program as needed.


This article was written based upon recommendations and information published by Cooper, Heron, & Heward (2014).

Cooper, John O., Heron, Timothy E.Heward, William L.. (2014) Applied behavior analysis /Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson/Merrill-Prentice Hall.