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The Stages of Change Model

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

The Stages of Change Model explains intentional behavior change along a temporal

dimension that utilizes both cognitive and performance-based components. Based on more

than two decades of research, the model has found that individuals move through a series

of stages—precontemplation (PC), contemplation (C), preparation (PR), action (A), and

maintenance (M)—in the adoption of healthy behaviors or cessation of unhealthy ones

(Prochaska & Velicer, 1997).

Take a look at the stages below and see if you can reflect on where you might be at in

implementing or adjusting a behavior or habit in your life. Whether this is adding a new

behavior such as practicing yoga, or no longer wanting to drink. This model is also often

used in substance use recovery to identify where someone may be at in their process of

change to better identify what might be needed during the different stages.

It is important to keep in mind that this is not akin to a video game. If you ‘beat’ a level

and move forward, you may not return to that level ever. With creating changes in our

lives this is not the case. You may move back and forth between different stages for some

time. Maybe you went on vacation and fell out of the daily routine you worked so hard on

creating and practicing for yourself. Maybe you had a glass of wine one night in

celebration with friends. It is important to be compassionate with yourself, create realistic

expectations and accept that your progress is never lost. When you can be honest with

yourself, reflect, and identify what stage of change you may have moved in to, you can

begin from there and make other adjustments to maintain the desired behavior.

1. Precontemplation - In this stage, people do not intend to take action in the foreseeable

future (defined as within the next 6 months). People are often unaware that their

behavior is problematic or produces negative consequences. People in this stage often

underestimate the pros of changing behavior and place too much emphasis on the cons

of changing behavior.

2. Contemplation - In this stage, people are intending to start the healthy behavior in the

foreseeable future (defined as within the next 6 months). People recognize that their

behavior may be problematic, and a more thoughtful and practical consideration of the

pros and cons of changing the behavior takes place, with equal emphasis placed on

both. Even with this recognition, people may still feel ambivalent toward changing

their behavior.

3. Preparation (Determination) - In this stage, people are ready to take action within the

next 30 days. People start to take small steps toward the behavior change, and they

believe changing their behavior can lead to a healthier life.

4. Action - In this stage, people have recently changed their behavior (defined as within

the last 6 months) and intend to keep moving forward with that behavior change.

People may exhibit this by modifying their problem behavior or acquiring new healthy


5. Maintenance - In this stage, people have sustained their behavior change for a while

(defined as more than 6 months) and intend to maintain the behavior change going

forward. People in this stage work to prevent relapse to earlier stages.

Resource: Loma Linda University School of Medicine

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