|James Prochaska, Professor, |
University of Rhode Island
Friday, 2 November 2012
Six Stages of Personal Change
In a recent interview, Dr. Prochaska reflected on his father's problems with bipolar disease, alcohol, and violence and the helplessness he felt as child trying to help his father change. "Not wanting to feel helpless when faced with very important problems," he said, is what led to his interest in psychology and later his development—with Carlo C. DiClemente, Ph.D.—of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, commonly known as the Stages of Change Model.
"There are lots of theories about how people change," Dr. DiClemente explains. The Transtheoretical Model "brings together these different perspectives [thus its name] and tries to integrate them around the idea that change happens over time." Changing a problem behavior, then, is seen as a journey through a series of continuous stages of readiness to change:
Pre-contemplation – Most pre-contemplators don’t want to change themselves, just the people around them. Denial is characteristic of pre-contemplators, who place the responsibility for their problems on factors such as genetic makeup, addiction, family, society, or destiny, all of which they see as being out of their control. Often they are demoralized as well.
Contemplation – People acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it. They struggle to understand their problem, to see its causes, and to wonder about possible solutions. Many remain stuck in contemplation for a long time. Those who eternally substitute thinking for action can be called chronic contemplators. As they move to the next stage, they begin to focus on the solution more than the problem, and to think more about the future than the past.
Preparation – Most in this phase are planning to take action within the very next month, and are making the final adjustments before they begin to change their behavior. But, they may not have resolved their ambivalence – they may still need to convince themselves that taking action is what’s best for them.
Action – Action is the most obviously busy period, and the one that requires the greatest commitment of time and energy. But many often erroneously equate action with change – ignoring the efforts required to maintain the change.
Maintenance – In this stage, one must work to consolidate the gains and struggle to prevent relapse.
Termination – this is the ultimate goal. The former problem or addiction no longer presents any temptation or threat. You exit the cycle of change and win your struggle.
When and how we move through these stages is affected by certain activities and experiences we engage in when we attempt to modify the problem behavior, e.g., seeking new information, self-reflection, feeling and expressing emotions, support and caring of others, rewarding positive change, reassessing values, accepting problem-free lifestyle, and controlling triggers.
Dr Prochaska is Director of the Cancer Prevention Research Center and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. DiClemente is Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland. Their groundbreaking and bestselling book, is written with Dr. John Norcross, called "Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward".