Self-efficacy is the degree to which a person believes that he or she can attain a goal. It is a frequently misunderstood but very important part of learning theory. It is also an important part of treatment for phobias and other mental health disorders, as a high degree of self-efficacy correlates with a higher chance for treatment success.
In phobia treatment, self-efficacy is the degree to which the sufferer believes that he or she can change feelings and behaviors. If you go into treatment expecting to fail, you decrease your chances of success.
Self-efficacy is different than self-esteem, which is a general regard for one’s overall worth. Someone with very high self-esteem may have low self-efficacy toward a specific situation, such as the ability to complete a marathon. The belief that one is able to solve problems and meet goals helps raise self-esteem. Still, the two concepts are separate and should be understood as such.