Making Changes in Our Lives: Exploring the Transtheoretical Model of Change

In the last post we discussed the change process and what we know about it.  Specifically, we talked about the research of James Prochaska and his colleagues and the Stages of Change model that he has developed. His Transtheoretical Model of Change explains in part why people stay in bad situations and in toxic relationships either with another person or with a drug.

So, how do you change? Prochaska would say that you have to begin to weigh in a somewhat systematic way the pros and the cons of making a change in your life.  For someone who is an alcoholic, it means looking honestly at what the pros of drinking are and what the cons of drinking are. I often suggest that my patients make a list of the pros and the cons and put weights on each one. It also means that you evaluate your ability to make the change and to follow through with the change process. This has to do in part with believing in yourself and having the skills, many of those the skills and the attitudes of resilience, to follow through with the change that you have decided you will make. Prochaska believes that people will only make a change when the pros clearly outweigh the cons of making a change and when people believe that they can be successful in following through with the change.

The person is then ready to make a decision about what change they will make and to make a commitment to the change process. Once that is made, people can move into the action stage. This involves getting the help that you may need to make the change, such as attending AA on a regular basis or getting a sponsor or really connecting with a smoking cessation program that will support you in the process of giving up the bad habit. For many of us, the action stage is often the easiest. The hard work is often the weighing of the pros and the cons and making a commitment to action steps that we will take.

After we have made the change through the action steps, we move into what is called the maintenance stage. This involves being able to maintain the changes that we’ve made, and this is also a difficult stage for many of us. Changing is hard, but maintaining the change is often harder. This often means getting the support that we need to maintain the change that we have made.

In my next post, I will talk more about the processes of change that can help an individual in moving from pre-contemplation to contemplation, to decision, to action, and to maintenance.

Ron Breazeale PhD