Stages of Change

Why won’t they change??!!

True, long-lasting change is based on a re-orientation of a person’s heart attitude and approach. This can’t be forced. Few people like to change under compulsion.  I actually haven’t met one.  People that are so passive that they let others force transformation usually hold onto their beliefs internally, ending up with resentments, bitterness, depression, or hopelessness. However, understanding how people change can offer assistance personally and with inspiring others.

Let me introduce you to the concept of “Stages of Change.”  It is one of the prevailing theories/applications in psychology, based on the work of Prochaska and DiClemente.

In their research, they have looked at everything from changing behaviors concerning medical problems to addictions. Timing is important; when someone is not ready, they are not going to change.  A person “buys in” to change when they are at one of several points: a) interested or concerned, b) convinced the benefit is greater than the cost, c) have a plan, d) are committed, and e) finally take action and uphold change.

The basic concept of Stages of Change is that a person will fall into one of five categories with regard to making a change:

Precontemplation (Not Ready): No intent or totally unaware.

Contemplation (Considering): Considering change.

Preparation (Ready): Moving towards change and possibly taking small steps.

Action (Work):  Working on change, taking steps.

Maintenance (Growth/Maturity): Applying long-term consistency.

Conceptualizing this, you and I can save a lot of energy and gain some wisdom in approach- that relationship where you have cried or yelled or shut down; your teenager you want to respect you; the boss with the thick skull.  You can know where to spend your time and energy (with yourself AND others) when you look through this lens. For example, if you want your spouse to “get you” and show better understanding, are you wasting time telling them again and again what you want? Someone at the contemplation stage will respond MUCH differently than someone at the action stage.

It wouldn’t be a blog of mine if I didn’t ask about personal responsibility: How is the pursuit of changing others wasting time and energy and possibly harming your relationship?  Where do YOU need to place your focus?

– JustinChameleons change



  1. Hey Justin,

    I’ve recently had to use this with some clients. Not necessarily in front of them so that they can point out the stage they are in, but for my own awareness of where they might be, so that I can adjust my expectations. While I might have some hope that they are ready for action, being aware of their stage of change can keep me aligned with their progress and shape how I approach them in session.

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