Making Life Changes, Pt. 2

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.

Making Life Changes, Part 1


Why do people seek help from a psychotherapist? Psychotherapy helps people in many ways. For some, it is a way to understand themselves better. For others, it helps to find meaning in their lives. Some have a definite problem they want to address (like, “Is my job right for me?”), while others have a specific conflict that appears repeatedly in their lives- for example, “Why do I always end up in fights with the people I’m closest to?” Some may want an objective listener who will always look out for their best interest. A large number of people, however, seek therapy in order to come to terms with self-defeating behavior that they know they must change because it is jeopardizing their health, their future plans, or their relationships with friends and families. They want to make life changes.


The list of self-defeating behaviors is endless. People want to quit smoking or abusing alcohol and other drugs. They want to control their weight, exercise more, be more optimistic, quit procrastinating, stop trying to control other people or letting others control them. They want to stop spending so much money or so much time online- so they seek help from a psychotherapist.


Fortunately, therapy can help people address these problems, but only if the person is ready to make the lifestyle changes required to bring the self-defeating behavior under control. Making life changes is easy for some people. For others, the changes seem enormous and the person goes into relapse repeatedly. Think of the number of smokers you know and the number of times they have tried to quit. Think of the number of friends you know who have tried repeatedly to diet, only to gain all the weight (and more) back within a year.


Change can happen when the person is ready to change. A psychotherapist can help people identify their readiness to change and move toward the stage of taking action to make the changes occur. A major emphasis in therapy is examining why change may be difficult and understanding how to get past the roadblocks that stand in the way of change.

To Be Continued…