Stages of Change

Stages Of Change Model: Viewing Change As An Ongoing Process

Understanding that change cannot happen overnight is crucial to the recovery process. In terms of starting a new life in sobriety, change is an ongoing process that requires constant effort. That is why at Aspire of Texas we practice the Stages of Change Model.

The Stages of Change Model proposes that change does not happen instantly; it is a process that takes time. Individuals cycle through different stages in order to achieve long term change. This model can be directly applied to quitting unhealthy behaviors including drug and alcohol abuse. Individuals cycle through the following stages at varying paces:


Precontemplation is characterized by individuals still being unaware that their negative behavior needs to be changed. In this stage individuals are not likely to begin changing in the next 6 months.


In the contemplation stage individuals have realized that they must make a change to their behaviors. They are weighing the pros and cons of changing, but are still resistant to beginning action around the process of change. Individuals in the contemplation stage are likely to begin changing behaviors in the foreseeable future.


In the preparation stage individuals are starting to take small steps to changing. They have determination to alter their unhealthy behaviors and are willing to take the steps to a healthier life. Action steps around changes will likely begin within 30 days.


In the action stage of change individuals have initiated the steps that they need to take in order to achieve new healthy behaviors. They will continue to break negative habits while acquiring new, healthy behaviors.


The maintenance stage of change continues after an individual has been adopting healthy behaviors and actively working on change for over 6 months. This stage involves continuing to watch for negative behaviors in order to prevent backtracking into a prior stage of change.


Termination is rarely achieved in the stages of change model as many individuals remain in the maintenance stage indefinitely. When termination is achieved there is little to no risk of an individual relapsing into a prior stage of change. The individual has no desire to return to the way that they were, and are committed to their new way of life.

The Stages of Change Model has many parallels to the the twelve steps of recovery. It can be viewed through the lens of recovery quite easily for this reason. When clients are able to understand that recovery is on ongoing process and that steps in the wrong direction are not reason to give up, they can begin to build confidence in themselves. Mental health providers can help facilitate change by guiding clients through these stages using appropriate interventions.