Self-Help Strategies Stages of Change: The Transtheoretical Model
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
The Transtheoretical Model of Change is a theory introduced by psychologist James Prochaska in 1983. Also referred to as the “readiness-to-change” model, this theory identifies the five stages through which people advance towards permanent change. It helps to understand this process when you or someone you love is preparing for change.
The 5 Stages of Change
Prochaska developed this theory after observing a problem with existing behavioral change programs. Prochaska found that people were expected to adopt healthy behaviors immediately and were sharply criticized for having a lack of willpower if they failed to change. Prochaska determined behavioral change to be a process that followed a predictable course. Each stage is essential and the timeframe individual.
The transtheoretical approach has been widely used in areas of smoking cessation, weight management, substance use, mental health and stress management.
Stage One: Pre-contemplation “I don’t have a problem.”
In the pre-contemplation stage, people do not intend to change. They show a lack of concern for the consequences of their unhealthy behaviors and/or they do not have faith in their ability to change. In this stage, it is important to outline the pros and cons for changing behavior. It is beneficial to consider the potential benefits of change. Don’t underestimate the value of “just thinking about it.” It is a necessary step to begin thinking objectively about what can be gained from taking action.
Stage Two: Contemplation
“I want to change – I’m just not ready yet.”
In the contemplation stage, people intend to adopt healthy behaviors in the near future (within the next six months). They are increasingly aware of the benefits of change, although they may still see the pros and cons as equal. At this stage, a person is open to new information. People in contemplation can work through ambivalence through visualization. They can begin to see how their lives can be better through change. People are open to inspiration from others at this stage.
Stage Three: Preparation
“I am ready to make change a priority and announce it to the world.”
In the preparation stage, people intend to take action (within the next 30 days). They are ready to tell friends and family about their plans to change. They may have taken a few small steps and they now believe that changing the problem behavior will improve their life. Preparation is about building confidence and commitment. Individuals are likely to welcome support from others. They will also benefit from changing their environment, committing to a start date and setting Implementation Intention strategies (if this happens - I will do that) in order to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Stage Four: Action
“I now focus my energy on approach goals and new habits.”
In the action stage, people have changed their behavior (within the last six months). To keep moving forward, they need external support, self-confidence and strategies to replace old habits. Every small action helps build momentum. Individuals in action need to keep acquiring healthy behaviors. It’s important to reward small steps toward change, substitute positive new behaviors and avoid opportunities to slip back to earlier stages. It is important to anticipate and plan for situations that may trigger old patterns.
Stage Five: Maintenance
“The changes have become part of my new identity”
In the maintenance stage, people have successfully sustained their behavior change (more than six months). They have gained confidence with practice in the action stage and have proven that they can overcome obstacles. At this stage, it’s important for individuals to integrate healthy actions into their social life. This helps set them up for long-term success.
Boredom is a risk for people in the maintenance stage. Their changed behaviors have become routine; however, it is important to maintain commitment. This is the time to consider new challenges to stay engaged and discover additional tools to support long-term success.