Stages of Change

Stages of Change

The Stages of Change refer to the thoughts and actions required to choose recovery and enter treatment. To make this big transition, an addicted person is first pre-contemplative, and then contemplative. Once they have thought about recovery, they move onto preparation and action. Finally a maintenance routine is set in place to support long term recovery. 

  • Before considering change, an addicted person experiences the “four R’s” of Pre-contemplation. 
  • When contemplating the AP is still on the fence until they commit the next step. 
  • Preparation begins when they seek the help of a healthcare professional. 
  • Real changes start occurring once action has been taken with the help of a professional. 
  • After treatment, maintenance including coaching and 12 steps programs are necessary components of success. 

When we contemplate making a change there is a decision making process that we go through. The best example of this is when we have gotten a bit out of shape and are considering going on a diet or the gym. For a while we think it’s okay to not work out (pre-contemplative), then we consider joining a gym (contemplative). We then go to the gym (action) and finally we become dedicated to our new routines (maintenance). 

Reviewing Stages of Change:

1. Pre-contemplation

In the first stages of addiction recovery, a person usually does not consider their behavior to be an issue. At this point, they aren’t interested in hearing advice to quit or being told about potentially harmful side effects. We have all experienced this person. We know if we mention that they have a problem, they will ‘blow up’. This knee-jerk response is an indication that they are pre-contemplative.

Pre-contemplation takes several forms:

  • Reluctance: Lack awareness of their problem, as well as the motivation to change.
  • Rebellious: Do not want to let go of their addictive behavior because they do not like being told what to do.
  • Resigned: Overwhelmed by their addictive behavior that they’ve given up hope for the possibility of change.
  • Rationalizing: Think they have all the answers and have reasons why substance use isn’t an issue for them.

2. Contemplation

Contemplators have realized that they have a problem. They may want to change, but do not feel like they can fully commit to it. In this stage, a person is often more receptive to learning about the potential consequences of their behavior and the different options available.

However, they are still only contemplating. They haven’t yet made a change by committing to a specific strategy. The contemplation stage can last for years, oscillating between pre-contemplation and preparation.

3. Preparation

A person is committed and ready to take some actions. They actively research their problem, and research options for a cure. They might meet with a healthcare professional to assess where they are and determine options for a long-term treatment plan or attend some meetings.

4. Action

Real change starts at this stage. 

A plan of action has been put into place, and the person in recovery knows that they must do the work that is required. They are no longer just considering change. They want to make change as fast as possible.

5. Maintenance

It takes time and effort to sustain any change. In the maintenance stage, a person begins to adapt to their new substance-free lifestyle. As they build momentum, reverting to old habits gradually becomes less of a threat.

Sometimes the best intervention is one in which we work one-on-one with the person of concern. A traditional placement in rehab is not always right for everyone. There are many options for recovery, and exploring these with the person of concern allows them to be in charge of their recovery.

Recovery coaching is helpful as:

  • An alternative to inpatient residential treatment
  • A way to get back on track after relapse
  • A structured after care plan after residential treatment
  • An additional way to strengthen mutual-aid self-help groups

Recovery coaching focuses on these principles:

  • Future-Focused: Navigate the present, and set goals for the future
  • Professional Guidance: Follow proven plans with our 30- and 90-day programs
  • Accountability: Reinforce accountability through meetings, phone calls, and homework
  • Build on 12 Steps: Strengthen other programs with which you may be involved
  • Real-Life: Learn how to stay sober in the actual environments where you live and work

Most people respond very well to coaching interventions and many people can avoid in-patient treatment with daily accountability and connecting to the proper resources. You have the power to live a better life, let us guide you there. By understanding the stages of change, we will develop a plan that greatly increases your chances of succeeding.


About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach. Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one.

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally.

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