Let’s Talk Change

Stages of changeOver the years I‘ve researched and explored several approaches to mental health and addictions recovery because we are all individuals and one approach does not always connect with everyone. There is an explanation/model by two alcoholism researchers, Carlo DiClemente and J.O. Prochaska that seems to fit many individuals’ experiences. Their model is called “The Stages of Change” and previous many clients have found it easy to understand. The Stages of Change are: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Determination, Action, and Maintenance/relapse/recycle.

Each stage is an explanation of where the individual fits along their journey of recovery. Recovery is a process and, as I like to say in therapy, “a work in progress.” Here are the stages explained in more detail.

Precontemplation: In this stage an individual may not recognize that she or he has a problem, but loved ones may have suggested that changes or help is needed for the individual. Here the individual might be thinking that loved ones are overreacting and they have not directly suffered consequences for negative behaviors.


Family might tell this person that they are drinking too much and missing family functions.

Loved ones might be telling the individual they are spending too much time in bed and not engaged with the family.

Contemplation: In this stage the individual might have an openness to consider that a problem exists and there may be a need to change a behavior in order to correct the problem. Here a commitment to change has not been made; there is not direct action for change.

Individual might realize they have missed a grandson’s birthday party because s/he was too drunk to go.

Individual might consider that anxiety symptoms are too high to attend daughter’s graduation ceremony.

Preparation: In this stage, an individual has made a decision to stop the negative behavior. Here the person makes plans to implement changes.


Individual starts researching counselors in the area that specialize in depression or addiction issues and schedules an appointment.

Action: In this stage the individual recognizes and admits that a problem exists and develops a plan of action to overcome. Modifications to behaviors, environments, relationships, and experiences to overcome the problem are implemented.


Individual eliminates use of alcohol, changes friends if needed, mends broken relationships, and creates new habits to nurture new life and new goals.

Maintenance: In this stage the individual has achieved the change desired. Here the persons’ negative patterns have been replaced with healthier coping skills. Person recognizes transformation and benefits of change, but must continue to nurture change as there is a risk for relapse or recycled symptoms returning. Keep awareness of triggers that lead to relapse. Use a Wellness Recovery Action Plan.

We have discussed the stages of change, and you can take your time to decide where you might fall in the stages of change. Now, let’s talk motivation to change. We hear the phrase all the time “ready, willing, and able.” However, this expression incudes three critical elements of motivation. Let’s explore your motivation. Ability refers to the necessary skills, resources, and confidence to carry out change. Willingness involves the importance a person places on changing. How much do you want it? The ready component is the final step. It represents the priority in the person’s life to commit to change. When you are ready for change counseling can help. We can help you along your journey of change and recovery. We can encourage when needed and praise the successes as they happen too. You don’t have to make these changes alone. Give us a call and we will be happy to join you.