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August 6th, 2022 by Janet Chen

Recently a client asked me, what was the most important factor to help them realize behavior change?  My response was persistence and direction.  In the 2022 article, Relapse on the Road to Recovery:  Learning the Lessons of Failure on the Way to Successful Behavior Change, DiClemente and Crisafulli, discuss the process of change.  They describe the Transtheoretical Model of Internal Behavior Change (TTM) developed by Prochaska et al in 1992.  This model describes a change process consisting of 5 stages.  Each stage includes a specific state of mind and tasks that need to be completed. 

These stages are as follows:

  1. Precontemplation – generating interest and concern about the need to change
  2. Contemplation – making a decision and overcoming ambivalence
  3. Preparation – planning for and committing to making a change
  4. Action – initiating the change and making the plan work
  5. Maintenance – maintaining the change over time until it becomes a habit or part of our behavior.

The change process is not easy.  Most people have difficulty changing addictive behavior and “relapse” or return to old behavior will often occur.  Prochaska (1992) says change is not a linear process.  Most people recycle through the stages.  For example, you may revert to old behavior and find yourself in the contemplation stage, basically feeling ambivalent about making a change. Or after having a slip, you find yourself in the preparation stage planning ways to do thing differently in the future.

Since most of us struggle with behavior change, it’s also worth considering things that will help us be successful.  Attitude is very important in the change process.  People who are willing to continue on, even though they have ups and downs seem to be better able to change in the long run.  Learning from failure is another important feature of change.  People who are able to examine “what went wrong” so that they can make adjustments seem to stay with the process and eventually succeed.  Not getting caught up in stigma and shame when having set backs is also helpful.  But remember, persistence is king.

If you would like more information about the change process, please see the DiClemente and Crisafulli article.

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