Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Stages of Changing a Behavior

A Person Must be Ready, Willing and Able to Change

Change - The process in which people think about, implement and maintain new behaviors (Prochaska and DiClemente, 1984).

The 5 stages have been applied to people who modified behaviors related to:
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Eating
  • Exercising
  • Parenting
  • Substance Abuse and Dependence
  • Marital Communications (without a professional) 

The Five Stages of Change:

1. Pre-contemplation - Person not really considering change and do not see anything changing in the future.

2. Contemplation - Person becomes aware that a problem exists and begin to see that there are reasons to change. They begin thinking about their options.

3. Preparation - Person begins to investigate into how to change their behavior. They make decisions about what is needed to change and set goals for themselves. This is the stage where the plan to change is often shared with others'.

4. Action - A person chooses a strategy to change and begins to put it into action. The individual is actively modifying their behavior.

5. Maintenance - A person continues to make an effort to sustain the positive aspects that came from the action stage. Maintenance requires prolonged behavioral change, often 6 months to several years, depending on the targeted behavior (Prochaska and DiClemente, 1992).

In most cases, people attempting long-term behavior changes do relapse, at least once and revert to an earlier stage. When this happens, the person may repeat the steps necessary to implement the change into their lives again. This can be used as a learning experience as to which situations may need to be avoided to prevent diverting back to an undesired behavior.

Not too many people are able to implement these stages one time and not have any relapses of themselves before their change. A relapse should not be thought of as a fail but as an opportunity to start fresh and stronger.

The pace at which an individual moves through the stages is relative to the behavior attempting to be modified and the desired outcome.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services TIP 35,

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