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University Life Café

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Stages of Change

By KSU Counseling Services Staff

Preview Points

  • Change may feel very threatening to people.
  • Understanding the different phases of change may be helpful to give people a perspective.
  • This may also encourage a sense of patience with change.
  • Behavioral change is a process, not a single event.


Being aware of the needs for change is critical for a clear approach for change.

THE STAGES OF CHANGE MODEL: A widely used model for change is one by Prochaska and DiClemente known as the "Stages of Change Model."
There are six phases that may be seen in a circular way.

  1. Pre-Contemplation involves the lack of awareness of the need for change. Individuals in this phase are not aware of the consequences of their behavior.
  2. Contemplation, the next phase, has the individual ambivalent about change and likely not considering change within the next month.
  3. The third phase is Preparation, with the individual planning to act within a month and initially gathering information or getting ready.
  4. The Action phase involves practicing the new behavior for 3 to 6 months.
  5. The Maintenance phase involves continued commitment to sustaining the new behavior after the initial 6-month action period and to about 5 years.
  6. The Relapse phase involves resumption of old behaviors at any phase of this change, but ideally, with resumption of the change commitment (Prochaska and DiClemente's Stages of Change Model, 1982, as cited in the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition).


N. Lezin offers "The Processes of Behavior Change" in ten steps.

  1. Consciousness-raising: Learning about the proposed change and gathering ideas for it
  2. Dramatic relief: Expressing negative feelings about one's perceived problems
  3. Self re-evaluation: Realizing that the behavioral change is part of one's identity
  4. Environmental re-evaluation: Assessing how one's problem affects the physical environment and those in that environment
  5. Self-liberation: "Choosing and committing to act on a belief that change is possible"
  6. Social liberation: Societal support for healthier behaviors
  7. Counter-conditioning: Choosing healthier alternatives in place of problem behaviors
  8. Stimulus control—Avoiding triggers that may lead to the negative behavior
  9. Contingency management—Setting up rewards of positive behavioral change and decreasing rewards for the unhealthy behavior
  10. Helping relationships—Using a strong support system of family, friends and co-workers (Lezin, 2007, pp. 1 – 3)

Concluding Points

  • Change is part of a process, not a discrete event.
  • There are helpful steps to behavior change that may make the change more successful.
  • Lapses are not an unexpected part of behavior change.


Lezin, N. (2007). Theories and Approaches: The Processes of Behavior Change. ReCAPP. ETR's
Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

Prochaska and DiClemente's Stages of Change Model. (1982). UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
Retrieved Dec. 8, 2008, at  http://www.cellinteractive.com/ucla/physcian_ed/stages_change.html .

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Stages of Change (pdf)