Chances are if you are reading this, there is a high likelihood that you might be considering how change could impact your life. Maybe you are attempting to create change with your diet or exercise. Maybe you are considering making a significant change in a relationship within your social life. Or, like me, you could be embarking on an exciting journey in your professional life. Change can be amazing, terrifying, anxiety provoking, challenging, and uncomfortable all at the same time, but do not let that push you away from taking your first step!
I found it fitting to write my first blog post with Greenway therapy regarding change, as I too am navigating significant change in my life. I was recently hired on to Greenway Therapy’s team of clinicians, and I cannot be more excited to begin working with clients. That being stated, I am absolutely terrified of change. Ironic, a therapist that is fearful of change! Through my experience in working with clients, I am certain that my experience is extremely common.
Stages of Change
It makes sense to begin with “Stages of Change.” Underlying this model is a belief that people talk themselves in and out of change on a daily basis. You can hear this in the way people talk about behavior change to others, as well as in their own self-talk.
To understand this way of thinking about change, I use my own experience to showcase how change talk may look different in each stage. Fun fact about me: I am seriously lactose intolerant. The challenge here? I rather enjoy eating pizza. You can see how this could be a problem. Let’s use behavior change surrounding my eating habits related to pizza to better understand how people talk themselves into change and motivate themselves through it.
Each Stage Explained
Each of the stages of change are listed below with an explanation of what it means and things you might hear me say in each stage of change.
Precontemplation: In this stage of change, there exists little internal motivation for change. This stage of change translates to the time before I considered that there was a problem with my behavior. “Everyone tells me I need to stop eating pizza…maybe they are the ones with the problem.”
Contemplation: In this stage of change, I am considering that there may be an issue with my behavior, but I am experiencing both feelings for and against making change. You will often hear people express these feelings in statements, such as, “Ordering a pizza is convenient when I get home from work and don’t feel like cooking, but it is hurting my health.”
Preparation: In this stage, people are creating a plan to make behavior change possible. They are exploring why they behave in certain ways and methods of working through changing their behaviors. “To change my habit of eating pizza, I started to prepare meals in the morning. That way, when I get home from work and am tired, I do not have to cook.”
Action: After making a plan from the previous stage of change, I put that plan into action.
Maintenance: Long-term, I am troubleshooting and reflecting on my plan that I placed into action and assessing for whether any changes need to be made.
Relapse: This is the only “optional” stage of change. I could spend a ton of time talking about relapse. In short, behavior change is difficult, and often involves learning opportunities along the way.
Each one of these stages requires different behaviors to support them. People in the precontemplation stage of change are not in the same place as people who are within the action stage of change, and so-forth. I also share this to normalize where you are in your change journey. People often expect others to be in the action stage of change, and this is not always the case. With a better understanding of the process of change, we are on the road to manifesting it in our lives!