Readiness to change model

People come to therapy at different willingness levels to make a change.

For example, a person who needs to get rid of their anxiety about flying in order to attend their best friend’s wedding may be very ready to engage with therapy. On the other hand, a person who must attend mandated therapy because of their substance use may come into therapy not wanting to change at all.

Unsurprisingly, readiness to change affects how much a person wants to work with the therapist and try out the strategies provided.

This article provides useful information to learn about the different stages of change and figure out what stage of change you might be in.

The Stages of Change

There are six primary stages of change:

1. Pre-contemplation

2. Contemplation

3. Preparation

4. Action

5. Maintenance

6. Relapse

The pre-contemplation stage is the first stage on the readiness to change model. This is when the person does not see any issues with their current habits or behaviours and may even see the behaviour as beneficial.

For example, they may find smoking marijuana to be stress-relieving and an enjoyable pastime and do not notice any significant negative effects it has on their life.

People in the pre-contemplation stage are likely not thinking about receiving services.

The contemplation stage occurs when people start second-guessing the usefulness of certain habits. They may start noticing some cons of continuing to engage in behaviour or hear it come up from friends and loved ones.

People in the contemplation stage may start to consider treatments or come into therapy with a fair amount of ambivalence in terms of what they should do.

The preparation stage is the time where individuals become committed to making a change but have not yet employed strategies to tackle their unhelpful behaviours or thoughts.

During this time, they may do research or speak with a therapist on how to best achieve their goals.

The Action stage is the active employment of strategies and learnings to make an improvement in an area of their life. For example, stopping substance use or working towards improving mood.

Once individuals have made a significant improvement, they are now in the maintenance phase. For many people, change is a life-long commitment that requires continual effort to ensure that gains are made.

Finally, it is important to recognize that relapse is very common because change happens throughout our lives over and over again. It is common (and not the person’s fault at all!) if they lose a little progress over the years. When this happen, the individual will re-commit based on their learnings and apply the skills again to get them to where they want to be. In this case, we move from the relapse to the action stage (and back to maintenance).

How do I strengthen my readiness to change?

For some people, they are not sure if a change is needed at this time or if it makes sense to take action at this time.

One strategy that therapists often use is motivational interviewing.

Motivational interviewing is a way for people to carefully consider the pros and cons of making a change based on values. Values are life-concepts that are important to you.

For example, you might ask yourself: “Why is important to make a change?” and “What are the pros and cons of changing compared to staying the same?”.

You may consider the impact that making a change has on values, such as relationships, families, finances, health, personal qualities, among other personal values. You would then make a conscious decision to decide whether it is worth the effort to make a change based on these values.

Afterwards, follow through with a commitment to important values. To support change, there are of course many therapeutic resources that can be helpful to try out!

What if I don’t want to make a change?

That’s okay! It may not be the right time to make a change, or you may realize that the benefits of sticking with your current habits outweigh the cons of making a change. There is no one way to live life and I personally believe you should act in accordance with your personal values.

Best wishes,