James Prochaska developed “Prochaska’s Stages of Change Model,” which is a model that describes how people change. Psychologists use it when they are trying to figure out why one of their clients isn’t making progress in therapy.
Prochaska was motivated to develop the model after his father died from alcoholism, despite his family’s best efforts to help.
Prochaska identified five stages that people can find themselves in as they work to achieve change. The word “contemplate,” which means to consider, is embedded in the names of the first two stages. In sequence, the complete list of stages follows.
- Precontemplation – or “Pre – contemplation” – means to not be considering making a change.
- Contemplation – means to be considering making a change, but to remain on the fence about whether you want to do the work involved or not.
- Preparation – means to be figuring out how to go about making the change occur.
- Action – means to be knee deep in the effort required to achieve the change, and slogging your way forward.
- Maintenance – means you have accomplished your goal, but are aware it is possible to relapse.
In addition to these five stages, it is important to also know about lapses and relapses, because they are an integral part of any attempt to change.
- Lapse – means a temporary return to an earlier stage of behaviour, but the “slip” is caught and corrected.
- Relapse – means a more permanent return to an earlier stage of behaviour that is neither caught nor corrected.
Prochaska’s Stages of Change Model can be applied to any behaviour you wish to change, such as learning how to avoid burnout, especially when finding yourself in burnout has become a pattern for you.
A short list of other behaviours might include improving your eating habits, becoming more physically active, making a job change, quitting smoking, or reducing your alcohol use.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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