Stages of Change and the Process of Positive Change

People who seek treatment for alcohol and chemical use issues and other problematic behaviors enter therapy at different stages of readiness to change. In their research on behavior change, psychologists Prochaska and DiClemente identified five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. The therapeutic process differs depending on the stage you find yourself in when you seek treatment.

Individuals in the precontemplation stage usually do not consider their behaviors as problematic and often pursue treatment due to external pressure from family and friends, as a result of relationship conflicts, problems with work, or legal issues.  If they feel they are being forced into treatment,  their emotional experience will likely color the therapeutic interaction. The feelings and thoughts associated with this experience will likely have to be processed in order to develop conditions of safety and trust and build a foundation of collaboration. In contemplation mode, a person is willing to consider that (s)he may have a problem but usually  feels ambivalent about change. Ambivalence is natural;  especially if the behaviors are associated with positive experiences. During this stage, we will work together to assist you to process the pros and cons of change and compare them to the pros and cons of continuing the behaviors that brought you into treatment. Furthermore we will look at the various meanings associated with the behaviors. According to Tatarsky, a leader in the field of harm reduction psychotherapy, behaviors contain multiple meanings that need to be understood and worked through as you embark on positive change.

During preparation, an individual acknowledges that the behaviors are problematic and  change is fundamental to improving health, well-being, quality of relationships, self-esteem and overall satisfaction in life and love. With this understanding, I will provide the support you need so you can begin to strategize and develop a change plan that may include reducing or ceasing problematic behaviors. Within the action stage, energy and effort will be invested in application of the plan. During this period, various challenges may emerge in accomplishing the identified objectives and goals. These challenges are accepted and invited for processing into the therapy where we can  explore them and  develop strategies to resolve them.

The fifth stage of change is maintenance, wherein you recognize that quality of life has improved through the changes that you made.  Here, I will work with you to ensure that the gains you have made are sustained and that you continue to grow.

I look forward to our collaboration on your journey to improve the quality of your life.