Stages Of Change: 6 Steps To Embrace Change

Change is the only consistent thing. Ever wonder why is it difficult for you to change? Stages of change are a process with various phases. It helps people in changing their addictive behavior, dropping any old bad habits. 1

Why do you retaliate against change? Why is your intention to change always driven halfway? Why do your friends or relatives easily modify their behavior and you can’t? 

To resolve your query and quest for change, you can go through the TTM model given by Prochaska and Declemente in the late 1970s.TTM model is a transtheoretical or behavior theory that elucidates behavioral changes, validation, and determination to change.

The model is based on constructs like stages of change, processes of change, self-efficacy, and decisional balance. Constructs are like instruments to understand human behavior better.

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 It successfully explained how a chunk of people quickly embraces change while others struggle to change. The model discloses behavioral traits of smokers how few were able to give up smoking themselves while others were recidivists. 

The TTM model suggested stages through which you go through before complete change in your actions. Change is a process that requires desire, conscious efforts, and patience to change. It suggested 5 stages pre-contemplation, contemplation, determination, action, and maintenance. The sixth stage, termination, was not a part of the original model.

Re-occurrence or slipping down to previous stages is part of the change process. Temptations cause irregularity, gaps, or precedence.

1. Stages Of Change: 6 Steps To Embrace Change

Stages of change are kind of steps that you can follow to change your behavior.

1.1. Pre-Contemplation Or No Intention To Change

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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

It is the first phase of the stages of change model people dwelling in this phase lack the intention to embrace change. Considering their conduct right, they are unaware of the existence of a problem.

 They don’t consider their conduct dubious. Change is not an option as the doer is heedless about the lasting harmful effects of compulsive behavior2. The doer has no intention to change in the coming future. A person can stay up to 6 months in this phase, not ready to change.

For instance, your friend has a gambling addiction. He considers it just an activity to dispose of his time. At this stage, your friend is not ready to give up gambling. Others advise him to change, but he neglects and defends by saying it is just a pleasurable activity.

The key features of this phase are:

  • Unaware of problem
  • No intention to change
  • Unable to equate benefits and ill effects.
  • Retaliate change 
  • Defend compulsive behavior

 1.2. Contemplation Or Recognition Of The Problem

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Image by Gisela Merkuur from Pixabay

 Individuals start recognizing that their behavior is dubious to some extent. Something is wrong with their conduct Which is causing harm to them.

 In this state, peer relatives and the community help the person to recognize the underlined problem. People gather more information about the problem it affects and how to overcome it.

 During this phase, the individual considers the benefit of change. The person evaluates benefits and drawbacks. The person stays in this phase for the next six months evaluating his behavior.

Taking forward the above example, your friend has realized that his addictive behavior is creating a problem. Evaluating himself, asks questions, am I an addict? Is it negatively affecting my behavior? How can I change my conduct? I want to change my behavior.

The key features of this phase are:

  • Accepting the problem
  • Consider the benefit of change. 
  • Equates merits and demerits of change

1.3. Preparation Or Initiate Steps To Change

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 Once you made it to this phase, you made up your mind to change after strongly considering its advantages. With a strong will, the person starts making small changes in conduct.

On entering this stage, a person can seek a therapist. Peers and relatives can help the person keep going by recognizing small efforts and applauding their effects.

 To stay strong at this stage positive affirmations are required to boost morale. Positive reminders like, Yes, it is beneficial for me. I am doing well. Setting small goals, achieving them helps you to succeed. The person can spend a month or so in this phase. 

Going with the above example think your friend has adopted new activities and tries to divert his mind. He has reduced playing cards per week. He has started writing a journal about how he can use this money for his family.

The key features of this stage are:

  • Initiating the change.
  • Small effective steps. 
  • Small achievements.

1.4. Action Or Adopt New Conduct For Change 

 Congratulate yourself you have successfully made it to this phase. You are convinced of the benefits of change and eagerly adopt new habits to alter compulsive behavior3. In this phase benefits of change surpass the demerits of change.

A person in this stage strongly believes and acts towards behavior alteration habits. He believes he can change his conduct.

Talking about example your friend has taken up constructive activities like gardening to divert his mind. He has plans where to spend money to reap benefits.

The key features of this stage are: 

  • Adopting new habits.
  • Ready to alter old behavior.
  • Opting for healthier habits.

1.5. Maintaining Change To Avoid Re Occurrence 

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Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

You have effectively and with conscious efforts embraced change. You try to maintain the newly adopted hale and healthy lifestyle. 

Maintenance is required at this point as the person can recidivist or slide down to previous stages. 

The doer makes conscious efforts to maintain behavior change. For at least another six months a person stays in the maintenance phase. The person can adopt different activities to keep going.

Let us say your friend has successfully given up his addiction and is leading a new happy life. Your friend tries new hobbies to keep his mind diverted.

1.6. Termination

It is the last phase of stages of the change model but people don’t consider it a phase. Most people stay in the maintenance phase and very few reach this phase.

Termination is an important phase. Your therapist can guide you on when to terminate or end this process. It is to terminate when your therapist realizes that you have adopted change and have been persistent with changed behavior over some time.

Generally, people do not realize the importance of this phase. The person has no will to return to the previous compulsive behavior.

Your friend has ceased gambling and has no intention to pursue it again. Temptations no longer affect your friend.

2. Processes Of Change 

Processes of change are another construct of stages of the change model. There are ten identified processes of change. It throws light on the uses of various processes to embrace change. 

The initial stages involve an analytical analysis of its effect and benefits. As the person moves to the next phases, a strong will and continuous actions are expected.

  •  Conscious Raising

This means the person is using his cognizance in gathering information through various sources.

  •  Dramatic relief 

It is when you start recognizing your feelings. Changed behavior brings in positive feelings such as happiness and confidence. Compulsive behavior makes you stressed.

  •  Self-Revaluation 

This is when you start evaluating your behavior. You begin realizing the benefits of healthy conduct.

  •  Environmental Revaluation

In this, you realize your compulsive conduct is harming your surroundings. It also affects people around you. In this case, you want to change for the people around you.

  •  Social Liberalization

In this, you see people around the support system. They help you to change. You ask them to help in change.

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  •  Self-Liberalization 

Happens when you decide to change. You believe you can change. In this, you trust your ability to change.

  •  Helping Relations 

This means you seek the help of your relatives and friends. You feel others can help you to change.

  •  Counter Conditioning

It is when you start replacing good habits with bad habits. Good h

  •  Reinforcement Engagement 

In this to increase good conduct there are rewards for changed behavior. So you can remain motivated to change.

  •  Stimulus Control

Constant clues are given to the person to avoid slipping down to the previous stages. Clues are reminders to maintain change.

3.  Self-Efficacy Construct

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Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

This is the important construct of stages of change, which defines how people with a strong will can embrace change easily. It is based on Bandura’s model that self-efficacy leads to better changes.

It sets a relationship between self-efficacy and change. Self-assured persons are likely to hold changed behavior for longer without returning to previous phases.

Lack of self-efficacy lead to regress and temptations take a toll on persons.

4. Decisional Balance Sheet

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Image by Alexa from Pixabay

This construct of stages of change is based on the Decisional balance sheet given by Janis and Mann. It is a way of deciding by comparing the benefits and drawbacks of change.

In different phrases, the person decides to change after evaluating its benefits and drawbacks.

During the pre-contemplation phase, the person was not ready to compare. Change is considered a drawback.

At contemplation, the stage person starts evaluating the benefits of change. The benefits surpass the demerits as he moves further which, motivates him to change.

Decisional balance helps a person move to the next phase while he continuously equating the benefits and demerits of a healthy lifestyle.

5. Stages Of Change – In A Nutshell

Once you identify which phase you are in, you can modify your behavior to change or avoid recidivism.

Motivators are necessary at the action and maintenance phase. Rewards for changed good behavior keep the morale up. Temptations can make you regress to previous steps. Change takes time, and small efforts lead to big changes.

6. Conclusion

The Stages of Change model provides a valuable framework for understanding how individuals navigate the process of behavior change. It recognizes that change is not a simple, linear process, but rather a dynamic journey characterized by different stages and transitions. This model underscores the importance of acknowledging an individual’s readiness and motivation for change, as well as the challenges they may face along the way.

By recognizing the various stages—pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and potentially termination—professionals can tailor interventions and support strategies to meet individuals where they are in their journey. This can lead to more effective and personalized guidance, increasing the likelihood of successful behavior change.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that not everyone progresses through all the stages, and relapses can occur. The model highlights the importance of ongoing support and the need for individuals to develop coping strategies to navigate potential setbacks.

Overall, the Stages of Change model offers a nuanced perspective on how individuals embark on and sustain behavior change, emphasizing the significance of patience, tailored support, and self-efficacy throughout the journey.



1. Is progression through the stages linear?

A. No, progression through the stages is not always linear. People can move forward, backward, or even cycle through different stages based on their circumstances and motivation. Relapses and setbacks are common, and individuals may need to revisit earlier stages before successfully reaching maintenance or termination.

2. Can the model be applied to any behavior change?

A. Yes, the Stages of Change model has been applied to a wide range of behavior changes, including health-related changes (exercise, diet, smoking cessation), psychological changes (stress management, therapy attendance), and more. It’s adaptable to various contexts where behavior change is relevant.

3. Can someone skip stages or stay in one stage indefinitely?

A. While the model generally follows a sequential order, people might skip stages under certain circumstances. For instance, a person might rapidly move from contemplation to action if they’ve already gathered information and prepared for change. Similarly, some individuals might remain in a stage for an extended period, especially if they face challenges in progressing.

Read more

  1. Zykov, Victor. “Dropping bad habits.” Bull World Health Organ 99 (2021): 689-690. ↩︎
  2. Luigjes, Judy, et al. “Defining compulsive behavior.” Neuropsychology review 29 (2019): 4-13. ↩︎
  3. Yadin, Elna, Eitan Friedman, and Wagner H. Bridger. “Spontaneous alternation behavior: an animal model for obsessive-compulsive disorder?.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 40.2 (1991): 311-315. ↩︎

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