As a licensed clinical social worker, you may often work with clients who are trying to make changes in their lives. Whether it’s quitting a harmful habit or addressing a mental health issue, change can be difficult. Understanding the process of change can be helpful in supporting your clients on their journey. That’s where the five stages of change come in.
Developed by psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in the 1970s, the five stages of change, also known as the “transtheoretical model,” is a widely used theory that explains the journey individuals go through when they try to change their behavior. The stages are:
- Precontemplation: In this stage, an individual is not yet aware of the need to change their behavior or is not ready to make a change.
- Contemplation: During this stage, the individual becomes aware of the need to change and begins to think about the pros and cons of making a change.
- Preparation: In this stage, the individual starts to take steps towards making a change and may make small changes in their daily routine.
- Action: The action stage is when the individual actively works to change their behavior and may seek support from friends, family, or a professional.
- Maintenance: In the final stage, the individual works to maintain the changes they have made and prevent any relapse.
As a clinician, understanding where your client is in the stages of change can inform your treatment approach. For example, if your client is in the precontemplation stage, you may focus on helping them become aware of the need for change. If they are in the contemplation stage, you might help them weigh the pros and cons of making a change. And if they are in the action stage, you can provide support as they work to make lasting changes in their behavior.
It’s important to note that these stages are not necessarily linear, and individuals may move back and forth between stages as they work towards making lasting behavior changes. By understanding the five stages of change, you can better support your clients on their journey toward behavioral transformation.