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January 20, 2014

The 5 Stages of Behavioral Change

In 1977, research psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente developed what is known as the Transtheoretical Model, a major component of which you may have heard of. Called the Stages of Change Model, this model for human behavior outlines each step in the change process that is experienced by all of us, including those who aren’t quite ready to change. The five stages of behavioral change can be applied to all behaviors, from exercise habits to addictions:

  • Pre-Contemplation: In the pre-contemplation stage, you are not actually contemplating change because you do not recognize a need for change.
  • Contemplation: You acknowledge that it’s time to change, and begin to think about how you can change.
  • Preparation: You plan for change and determine which habits you aim to break and how you will make this happen.
  • Action: In the action phase, you initiate change and begin to transform your behavior.
  • Maintenance: You adjust by practicing new behaviors that will help you to retain change.

Some professionals acknowledge a sixth stage in the change model: the relapse phase. During a relapse, individuals fall back into old patterns of behavior. Don’t ever let relapsing deter you from making a permanent change. It’s a natural part of the change process, and the model is based on the notion of an upward spiral; in other words, we are inclined to learn from each relapse and eventually reach a point where the desired change becomes permanent.

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