The Process of Change: A Continued Discussion of James Prochaska’s Theory

In the previous three posts we have talked about the processes that can help people move through the change process. In the last post we identified five of the processes of change, the first being a willingness to find out new information and facts and to explore community resources that could support you in being able to make the change that you are contemplating.

The second process involved being able to express both negative and positive emotions regarding the change process such as talking about your fears and anxieties and worries as well as your aspirations and your desire to change.

The third process we identified was doing a self-reevaluation. Looking at how making the change that you are contemplating will change the way you view yourself and others view you.

The fourth process we discussed was being able to reevaluate the impact of the change that you are contemplating making on your social and physical environment and the negative impact of not making a change.

The fifth process of change is the need for you to believe in your own ability to change and believing that you can make a commitment based on those belief and follow through with it.

There are five more processes of change that we will discuss briefly. If we assume that you have been thinking about the pros and the cons of making a change and been weighing those carefully and that your preparing hopefully to make a decision, a process that will be very helpful will be seeking and using family, friends and community support to help you make the change that you are contemplating.

It will also be helpful if you could begin to think differently and behave differently. In other words, substituting positive thoughts and behaviors for negative thoughts and behaviors that will keep you from making the change that you are considering.

Figuring out a way of rewarding yourself, both internally or externally, for making these positive changes and decreasing the rewards of not engaging in the new behavior will help you in following through with the action steps you are taking and with maintaining the changes that you have made.

You also want to remove reminders or cues that inhibit your new behaviors and you want to modify your environment so as to facilitate and encourage you to continue with the change. In AA, this means avoiding people and places and things associated with alcohol.

The last process that Prochaska and his colleagues identified was one they labeled “social liberation.” They defined it as realizing that the social norms and environment are changing and can help support the new behavior that you are engaging in, such as seeking a new job. This, in part, means realizing that the people around you and the new people you encounter will support you in making the changes that you are making and in maintaining those changes. Finding a new job, giving up a pattern of excessive drinking, not smoking, etc., will, in general, be reinforced by the social norms and the environment that you are a part of.

Change is a difficult process. Even positive changes are hard and produce stressUnderstanding the stages that we need to move through to make changes in our life will help us deal better with the adversity that we may face.

Ron Breazeale, PhD