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The Stages of Change

Where are you on the path to change?




The Stages of Change is a theory about how we go about making (or not making) changes in our lives. It can give us a framework for checking in with ourselves about how far along we are on a path to something new. It’s okay if you are not as far along yet as you would like to be - few people are. 


If you have not even started thinking there is a problem then you are probably in Precontemplation. We often get frustrated with other people when we recognize a problem, but they are in Precontemplation and have not recognized the problem themselves. Maybe you have started to think there is a problem, but you have not started to act on it yet? That would move you into Contemplation. In this stage you know there is a problem, but you may not know exactly what it is or what you want to do about it yet. In this stage you might start seeking resources to gather information like buying self-help books or scouring the internet.


The stage of Preparation is characterized by getting everything together to move forward. Sometimes, I would argue that folks stall out in Preparation because it can be rewarding just to gather materials for future projects instead of actually completing them. For example, individuals who start stocking up on exercise equipment and clothes without actually using their shiny new toys to actually exercise. The next stage is Action. This is where the movement really starts to happen. You may be actively discussing the issue with others, practicing new behaviors, setting goals that are measurable so you can track your progress, and seeking professional help to further support you in your new goals.


Maintenance is right in the name. In the Action step you started to make your desired changes and now you are trying to keep up with the changes you’ve made. This might mean keeping an eye out for and responding to anything that could hinder your progress forward. In services like counseling, once someone has made and maintained progress on their treatment goals this is where treatment can end. Termination is the stage where the new behavioral patterns feel like the new normal. We no longer need to consider stages of change because the change has already happened and has stuck around. 


Human beings are allowed to make mistakes and very few people will ever make a life change without slipping up and sliding backwards at some point. Afterall, whatever was in your way before is still around and still pretty attractive. Going through these stages is not a one and done kind of thing. We often will find ourselves moving in and out of all of them before we ever reach Termination. It can be really easily to decide we need to change (Contemplation), but way harder to actually do it (Action).  


Stages of Change:

  1. Precontemplation

  2. Contemplation

  3. Preparation

  4. Action

  5. Maintenance

  6. Termination


If you are interested in making a life change, counseling may be just the tool you need. Reaching out to me to set up an initial free consultation about services would move you out of the Contemplation stage and into Preparation. 


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