If you're considering changing your behavior, knowing where to start and how the process works can be helpful. One way to do this is by following the Stages of Change model.
Stages of Change Model
It is important to begin by recognizing that making a change isn't easy because it requires us to break old habits and do things differently. Unfortunately, many people choose to stay the same because changing is uncomfortable and presents an opportunity for failure. When you're not ready to consider changing or you're having difficulty recognizing that there's a problem, then you're in the Pre-contemplation stage. People in this stage struggle to think seriously about changing and often don't want help from others. They may justify staying the way they are while denying that there is a problem. If you're reading this article and this sounds like you or a loved one, it's okay because it is difficult to admit that things could be better or that change is possible. The fact you're considering therapy and educating yourself on the process of change tells me that you're ready to improve your life.
When you examine the positive and negative consequences of a behavior, you are entering the Contemplation stage. When you recognize that changing is possible, you may be on the fence about moving forward. In most cases, there are benefits to staying the way you are, but there are also reasons you want to change. Some people find themselves stuck in the Contemplation stage for a long time because they think about changing but struggle to go beyond this stage. If this relates to you, it could be helpful to learn more about the Preparation stage of change.
You are committed to changing and determined to do something different at this point. You recognize that changing is a real possibility and know that the benefits of changing outweigh the costs. People in the Preparation stage begin by researching strategies to change and discuss plans of action with their therapist or loved ones. By gathering information and discovering new techniques, you can gain a realistic idea of what it requires to change. People who skip this stage find it challenging to turn contemplation into action and maintain long-term change.
Once you plan how to change, the next step is implementing this. The Action stage requires you to follow your plan for roughly six months. This may sound like a long time, but it's important to remember that the change process is day by day or even minute by minute. You're in the Action stage as soon as you start implementing your plan! If you are improving your life, give yourself credit and reward yourself with small things to maintain motivation and self-confidence.
When you reach the 6-month mark of successfully following your plan, you have entered the Maintenance stage. At this point, you have avoided numerous temptations to return to your old behavior, so reflecting on how far you've come and what you've learned can be helpful. Doing this can help prevent returning to old habits or forgetting about the hard work you've put in. People in the Maintenance stage remain aware of their goal and still find it worthwhile and meaningful. They are patient with themselves because they realize that change takes time, and they may even feel that their new life has become routine or second nature.
It's important to remember that on any given day, you may find yourself going through multiple stages of change. Regressing to previous stages is a normal part of changing, and being critical of yourself can make it harder to succeed. Anyone who has tried to make a significant life change can tell you that it didn't happen overnight and that they had to be compassionate towards themselves when facing setbacks. Ultimately, changing is possible but requires hard work, determination, and accountability. Like anything in life, if it's challenging, there's an opportunity for growth and a sense of satisfaction. If you are in any of the stages, therapy can help. Therapy doesn't need to be only when you are in the pre-contemplation stage. Even when we are in the maintenance change, the environment can throw us a curve ball, and we can get off track. You don't have to change on your own. You deserve to make your life better. The therapist at Shoreside Therapies can help. Contact Calvin to get the jumpstart you need to create lasting change.
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Calvin Hanson, MSW, APSW
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