Stages of Change

People pass through stages of change when they have a problem behavior such as drinking too much, drugging, excessive gambling, co-dependency or sex addiction.

These stages are:

Precontemplation is the stage in which there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Most patients in this stage are unaware or under aware of their problems. This is often, perhaps wrongly, called ‘denial’ and lying.

Families, friends, neighbors or employees, however, are often well aware that the precontemplators suffer from the problems.

Contemplation is the stage in which patients are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it but have not yet made a commitment to take action.

Contemplators struggle with their positive evaluations of their dysfunctional behavior and the amount of effort, energy, and loss it will cost to overcome it.

Preparation is the stage in which individuals are intending to take action in the next month and are reporting some small behavioral changes (‘‘baby steps’’). Although they have made some reductions in their problem behaviors, patients in the preparation stage have not yet reached a criterion for effective action.

Action is the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences, and/or environment to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy. Individuals are classified in the action stage if they have successfully altered the dysfunctional behavior for a period from 1 day to 6 months.

Maintenance is the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action. This stage extends from 6 months to an indeterminate period past the initial action. Remaining free of the problem and/or consistently engaging in a new incompatible behavior for more than 6 months are the criteria for the maintenance stage.

Self quiz:

  • Do you have behavior that may need changing?
  • What is your problem behavior?
  • Have you a need to change?
  • Which stage of change have you reached?
  • How can you reach a healthy goal?
  • Do you need help?

Related Reading:

Drug And Alcohol Abuse: The Authoritative Guide For Parents, Teachers, And Counselors
I Need To Stop Drinking!
Everything I Never Wanted to Be: A Memoir of Alcoholism and Addiction, Faith and Family, Hope and Humor
Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease by Fingarette, Herbert [1989]

3 thoughts on “Stages of Change

  1. Dear,
    I know i have a problem concerning sex addiction for a long time but i don’t know what to do to overcome that .. to be free
    a month ago I knew about some 12 step programs that may help me & I joined some of them last days,
    you say that the maintainance period is an “indeterminate period”,
    is that mean i will suffer from urgent obsessions through all my life ?

  2. Hello,
    Obsessions and addiction will reduce if you work your way through the 12 step and continue to go to meetings you will have a spiritual awakening (see Alcoholics Anonymous book appendix).
    This is what happened to me!

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