5 Steps to Change Behavior
Why is it so hard to change a behavior? What prevents us from eradicating a bad habit when we know the action is harmful to us? Behavioral psychologist James Prochaska breaks down the stages in which an addict is capable of enacting change into 5 categories; Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. Determine where you or a loved one is in their personal journey of addictive behavior change.
- Precontemplation: In this stage, people are unaware or only vaguely aware that they have a problem. Others in their life, however, see the problem and try to persuade them of their problem. If users seek help at this stage, they do so only under coercion, and the likelihood of progress is low.
- Contemplation: In this stage, users are aware of their problem and seriously consider the decision to make a change. They know what they want to accomplish, but are not sure whether they are ready to take action yet. They often weigh the pros and cons of their addictive activities. A considerable amount of their time is spent in thought, as they try to decide whether what they gain from their addiction, and the effort it will take to relinquish their habits. Ultimately is it worth what they will gain from having an addiction-free life? These contemplated individuals are serious about taking action, but they are not ready to act.
- Preparation: In this stage, the user intends to take action in the next thirty days and may have already taken some small steps toward reducing their activities such as a decrease in the amount of alcohol they typically consume. These individuals are not quite ready to take the plunge and leave their addictive activities behind. However, they are close to being ready to do so.
- Action: In this stage, users, have stopped or significantly reduced (by objective standards) their use of the addictive activities for 1 day or 6 months. They no longer drink; they no longer cut themselves; they no longer smoke crack. The most acceptable criterion is abstinence. However, for some addictive activities, a large reduction which is roughly 90% or higher may qualify as an acceptable goal. The former users expend a great deal of focused energy to make their effort succeed. In the action stage the former users “walk their walk.”
- Maintenance: In this stage, past users work hard to prevent relapses. In order to qualify to be in this stage, the former user must be free of their addictive behaviors for more than 6 consecutive months and must also be able to execute the proper coping mechanisms required to avoid relapses. In this 5th stage, individuals continuously work to mend the damage caused by their past addictive lifestyles. They are vigilant and always prepared. They realize how easy it is to fall back into old habits, and that they can not take their success for granted. The maintenance stage lasts for an indefinite period of time, perhaps even a lifetime.
One of our objectives at BlueSky Behavioral Health is to assist individuals to unveil where they fall in Prochaska’s 5 Stages. We lean into his years of research in order to determine if you are in fact ready to make a change to your addictive habits. How willing are you to live a happier and more fulfilled life? Connect with a BlueSky Professional today, and unlock the door that stands between you and your next chapter.