Research has identified six major stages in the change process, as described in Changing for Good by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente. A key to successful psychotherapy is knowing the stage you are in for the problem you are working on. While these are identified as “stages,” it is important to remember that it is common for a person to move back and forth between stages in terms of their needs at various times. It is not a failure when you need to go back to a previous stage, in fact, you may have to go backward before you can go forward again. Lets examine the 6 stages:
1.) Precontemplation Stage- while others around you may be able to see there is a problem, precontemplators fail to see the problem and see no need to make changes.
2.) Contemplation Stage- the contemplator is tired of feeling trapped by self-defeating behavior. People at this stage feel that they can start making changes within perhaps the next six months or so. They admit that there is a problem in their way of living and starting thinking about ways to come to terms with it.
3.) Preparation Stage- those in the preparation stage are planning to take action within the next month. They have made the commitment to change their problematic behavior in the near future. However, they may still have some ambivalence about starting the change process.
4.) Action Stage- the action stage is the one that is the most visible to other people. This is the stage where most of he change activity takes place, and it is the stage where the greatest degree of commitment is needed. This stage takes real work- but if the previous stages have been addressed adequately, then this stage has a higher probability of success.
5.) Maintenance Stage- maintaining the changed behavior requires a long-term effort and a revised lifestyle. Making the change in the action stage is not enough- it means staying with the changes from now on. There may be a temptation to go back to the old behavior.
6.) Termination Stage- the termination stage is the stage of victory over the old self-defeating patterns. The lifestyle change has taken hold and the old behavior will never return. The temptations have disappeared. The person can now go on living without fear that a relapse will occur.