Are you Really Ready to Change?

Studies of change have found that people move through a series of stages when modifying their behavior.  Change is not a black and white process - there are levels or stages to it.  The most important aspect to change is that it doesn't happen overnight and that it might not stick forever.  It is common to go back to old behaviors (relapse). The key factor in long term change is if a person learns from a relapse and starts again with the new healthy behavior or sticks with the old, unhealthy and familiar one.

Here is some helpful information about the five stages of change.  Where do you fit in?

  1. PRECONTEMPLATION STAGE.  It is not that you can't see the solution.  It is that you can't see a problem. It is common for people in this stage to be in denial because they don't see (or can't admit) yet that there is a legitimate problem. Often pressure from spouses, parents, friends, etc. highlight the problem and add pressure for the person to get help.People in this stage often feel hopeless.

  2. CONTEMPLATION STAGE.  You know there is a problem and you would like it to go away. Contemplators acknowledge that there is a problem and begin to think about solving it. People in the contemplation stage struggle to understand the problem and may start brainstorming some ways to manage it. They start thinking about what it would be like to change.  The end of this stage is often marked by anticipation, anxiety and/or excitement.

  3. PREPARATION STAGE.  You think you are ready to change, and you are still ambivalent. Many people in the preparation stage are planning to take action and are held back by some emotion - usually fear or anxiety.  They might be intent on taking action and are working on preparing mentally and physically for the change.  The person also might be convinced that the change needs to happen and is preparing to take action.

  4. ACTION STAGE.  You are changing your behavior! This is the stage where people overtly modify their behavior and their surroundings. They are doing what they have prepared to do.  This stage requires the greatest commitment of time and energy.  Here the change becomes visible to others.

  5. MAINTENANCE STAGE.  Your new behavior replaces the old one over time.Change never ends with action. Without a strong commitment to maintenance, there might be a relapse or a slip.

The most successful self-changers go through the above cycle three or four times before they make it through without a relapse or slip. Long-term success is directly correlated to the Upward Spiral model where each slip is an opportunity to learn and grow and re-start and not get sucked back in to old behaviors.

Change is possible!  Are you ready?


Danna Markson, LCSW