Theoretical framework

Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2000) is central to Beat the Kick. SDT describes several types of motivation, ranked in order from a total lack of it (i.e. amotivation) to engaging in an activity because it is enjoyable or interesting in itself (i.e. intrinsic motivation). To bridge the gap between amotivation and intrinsic motivation, SDT describes four subtypes of extrinsic motivation that vary in the extent to which their regulation is autonomous: external motivation, introjected motivation, identified motivation and integrated motivation.

The least autonomous subtype of extrinsic motivation – external motivation – occurs when people act to avoid punishment, obey an external request or obtain a reward. The second subtype – introjected motivation – drives an individual’s actions to manage feelings of pride and worth, and to evade shame and guilt. Together, external motivation and introjected motivation are described as ‘controlled motivation’.

The third, more autonomous, subtype of extrinsic motivation – identified motivation – refers to actions that a person values. The fourth and most autonomous subtype of extrinsic motivation – integrated motivation – drives actions that are fully endorsed by a person’s other behaviours and values. Identified and integrated motivation – along with intrinsic motivation – are described as ‘autonomous motivation’.

Autonomous motivation is associated with positive behaviours and outcomes, such as better life satisfaction and subjective well-being, greater adherence to medication regimes for treating chronic illnesses, higher levels of physical activity and greater involvement in and better outcomes from psychotherapy. In contrast, controlled motivation is associated with negative outcomes such as depression and a lack of well-being.

Motivational Interviewing (MI; Miller & Rollnick, 2014), a clinical approach with many similarities to SDT, can help professionals facilitate autonomous motivation among people with an intellectual disability. MI is a collaborative, person-centred form of guidance towards more intrinsic motivation for change. In MI, the counsellor holds the autonomy of the client in high regard and interacts according to the following principles:

  • Express empathy (i.e. listen respectfully to the client, with a desire to understand the client’s perspective and show acceptance)
  • Develop discrepancy (i.e. distinguish between current behaviour and behaviour based on broader goals and values articulated by the client as arguments for change, and increase this distinction)
  • Roll with resistance (i.e. avoid arguing for change and instead invite the client to consider new information and perspectives)
  • Support self-efficacy (i.e. promote the client’s belief in their own ability to carry out and succeed at a specific task).