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The Stages You Might Go Through When You Want to Make a Change

Most people want to continue to improve their lives. They might be working on the financial, emotional, or psychological areas of their life. They might be attempting to get better at the workplace or improve the relationship with their spouse. It’s not uncommon to want to create change and improve our lives.

Sometimes, we need to make a larger, more abrupt change. We need to change careers or end a relationship.  For those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, they might need to end their substance use. However, when you know that you need to make such a change, there is frequently a process. You might begin with thinking about it, then making a decision, and then taking action.

The following describes the typical stages of change that take place when someone moves through the process of change. These stages are described with regard to substance use. However, the stages described below can apply to any significant life change:

Pre-contemplation: At this stage, an addict may not recognize there is a problem. There are no thoughts about making any change at all. The impact of the problem has not become conscious and there is no consideration to make any adjustment to one’s life.

Contemplation: Adults in this stage are willing to consider that there might be a concern. However, their ambivalence is high. They haven’t made a firm decision to change; rather, they know that the drinking or drug use is problematic and are willing to look at pros and cons to sobriety.

Determination: The hallmark of this stage is that a decision to change has been made. Although there continues to be some ambivalence, the determination to change is strong enough to outweigh any obstacles. There is a serious attempt to change with a realistic look at anticipatory problems, concrete solutions, and a sensible plan for recovery.

Action: As the energy of determination continues to build, an individual takes action and chooses to implement his or her recovery plan. A person might make their commitment to change public by telling friends in order receive external validation for their efforts. This stage might also include attending support groups, AA meetings, or individual therapy. As a recovery plan succeeds, emotional rewards might also become evident such as self-confidence, happiness, and optimism.

Maintenance: Although a recovery plan is in place and a recovering addict has taken action towards that plan, maintaining sobriety can be challenging. This stage might even include relapse, but the foundation for a sober life is becoming firm. The person in recovery is becoming more aware of old habits and is growing the ability to make healthier choices. The test of this stage is maintaining the new behavior in order to create a life-long change.

These stages were developed in 1983 by clinician James Prochaska. This model can be used as a map if you or someone you care for is attempting to make the transformation from addiction to sobriety, or any other significant life change.