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Stages of Change

Psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente identified a series of stages that people usually go through on the way to achieving successful change away from a problem habit or form of behaviour. The stages can be applied to a wide range of behaviours and problems, including giving up smoking, changing problematic alcohol use, following a successful and sensible diet plan, finding employment, giving up offending behaviour, improving self esteem and becoming more assertive.

Prochaska's model is sometimes referred to as the 'Transtheoretical Model of Change' or the 'Cycle of Change' or simply the 'Stages of Change Model'.

There are a number of slightly different formulations of the Stages of Change Model. Here is a table of one version of it with a description of what each stage involves:


Not even thinking about changing the behaviour or doing anything about it.
A state of ambivalence - Thinking about trying to change, but nor sure - seeing some potential benefits but also some possible downsides or potential difficulties.
Making a firm decision to try to make changes.
Starting to take action to make changes, perhaps involving following a specific plan.
Keeping up with the positive changes and actions until you achieve your goal on a permanent basis.
Lapse or Relapse
It is always possible that at the Action or Maintenance stage (or even the Determination stage) you may slip back and temporarily experience a 'lapse' before resuming your positive actions, or else you may experience a longer term period of falling back into the problem behaviour 'a 'relapse').


The Stages of Change Model is used as a basis for a highly effective model for helping people to make changes known as Motivational Interviewing. To find out some of the strategies for improving your motivation and capacity to change that you might apply at each stage of the change process, following motivational interviewing principles, click on the link below:

Strategies for Achieving Change



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