Stages of Change

Stages of Change

“Nothing changes if nothing changes” is a well-known quote out there in the real world, and one we use quite often in the recovery world.  It’s simple, it’s true, it’s to the point.  But, what if we’re not ready to change? What if we are ready to change, but we’re still just a little scared?  What if we’re ready to change but we don’t know how?  There are many reasons why we don’t change.  Why we stay stuck.  Why we don’t leave that relationship we’ve been complaining about.  Why we keep putting off our new exercise routine.  Change is complicated.

Here’s a little bit of education for you to absorb and integrate into your daily living.  It’s called the Stages of Change, which was theorized by Prochaska and DiClemente (You can read more on that by clicking this link).  The Stages of Change is a theoretical model and a framework for understanding human behavior.  It’s original context was in regards to alcoholism and other addictions, but it can now be applied to a variety of problematic behaviors.




The Stages of Change are not necessarily linear, which is why we like the above diagram.  It’s a cycle, and we can weave in and out of any stage at any time.

  • In Precontemplation, we are blissfully unaware that there is a problem.  We engage in a destructive behavior, such as drinking a bottle of wine nightly, but we don’t see it as a destructive behavior.
  • In Contemplation, we are beginning to consider that maybe, just maybe, our bottle of wine a night habit isn’t so great.  Maybe we’re starting to notice that we are exhausted every morning and that details of each night are a little fuzzy.
  • In Preparation (or called Determination in the above model), we are beginning to accept that our behavior is problematic.  We are realizing that drinking a bottle of wine every night doesn’t feel good.  We may take some little steps in changing that behavior, such as reducing the amount we are drinking.  We may start googling, “am I an alcoholic?’ and taking online quizzes.  Slowly, but surely, we are laying the groundwork for change.
  • In Action, we are making noticeable changes to our problematic behavior.  In keeping with the above example, we have started going to AA meetings.  We have entered counseling.  We are replacing the problematic behavior with new behaviors.
  • And finally, in Maintenance, we are sustaining change.  We have been alcohol free for 6 months, and continue to do the same things that got us sober in the first place.

Again, the above is an example.  Switch out the drinking, and add in any behavior that causes you pain.  Maybe it’s overeating, maybe it’s a destructive relationship, maybe it’s meeting deadlines at work.   The key is to first begin to understand the problem and look at it in a new way.  So, instead of saying, “I’m so lazy- I can’t believe I didn’t work out again today”, try saying to yourself, “I’m contemplating a healthier way of living.  I know I want to be healthy, I’m just not sure what’s holding me back”.  Isn’t that a nicer way to talk to yourself?  Isn’t it more likely that we can make our way through changing problematic behaviors if we can be a bit gentler with ourselves?

If you’d like some help in navigating the Stages of Change, contact us today at 203-596-7870 to set up an intake today.

Connecticut Counseling & Wellness, Substance Abuse Counseling, Wolcott, CT