The Five Stages of Change

The following are phases of change for anything you would like to change, in fact, you have

gone through these phases hundreds of times in your life with or without you even knowing they exist.


As you can imagine, much of what a counselor does involves helping clients facilitate change in their lives.


They have sought therapy out because they want to change something that is

causing them distress, like quitting a maladaptive behavior, resolving trauma, ending a

destructive relationship, or help with changing a negative narrative. I also see a boatload of

people that want to add something that is missing in their lives: the ability to manage emotions, set and maintain boundaries, or engage in self-care that they have never done.


In every instance, I must assess what level of change they are at, because the approach I offer is especially designed to support them through the stage they are at, and continue the

momentum through the next phase.


People work through the phases when they are ready, and they will not be able to engage in the activities in other phases they are not in.


The following are phases of change for anything you would like to change, in fact, you have

gone through these phases hundreds of times in your life with or without you even knowing they exist.


1. Precontemplation

This is the phase in which the person is unaware of their issue or problem. Although

others may be aware of their problem, the benefits of continuing as is have outweighed

any perceived detriment.


2. Contemplation

People in this phase have become aware of the issue and are considering the

consequences of their actions. Although they might be aware that there are other ways

of being that require change, they still feel ambivalence because they still see the value

or feel the desire for the behavior/problem/substance/person.


3. Planning

In this stage, a person is gathering information in the process of deciding what they

could do to facilitate change. They understand that change is necessary and imminent,

but haven’t formalized a plan quite yet. There may still be ambivalence and fear, but they

will decide their approach for action.


4. Action

The person begins the steps for change that they formulated in the planning phase.

They may try several different techniques or approaches, and there may be many starts

and stops, and even failures. Change is hard, and the first step at trying new things is

sucking really badly at first.


5. Maintenance

The hardest phase of change, although this is often misunderstood to be the easiest.

The maintenance requires consistent application of the new behavior, even as the

validation and accomplishment of the action fades. It takes a long time to make a new

behavior permanent, but with commitment and self-awareness permanent change is

possible and attainable.


Knowing these stages can help you determine the next step in your own healing. If you need help on your journey don't hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a free consultation.


Jeanne Wickham, LPC, LAC

Contact: 719-581-3126 ext. 703

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