In 1977 a man by the name of James O. Prochaska and his University of Rhode Island colleagues developed something called the ‘Transtheoretical Model’ which is based on the analysis and use of theories of psychotherapy, hence the name ‘transtheoretical’. The model itself is defined as the process involving progress through a series of stages that ultimately lead to change or in essence the stages of readiness leading up to permanent change. In wellness terms, these stages become quite important in determining a worksite’s level of readiness, or willingness to change.
According to the University of Minnesota, “There is some interesting research that shows that people who successfully change their behavior go through a series of five stages-and usually cycle through these stages three to four times.” The stages of readiness and the descriptions listed below come directly from Prochaska’s book Changing for Good.
Precontemplation – “People at this stage usually have no intention of changing their behavior, and typically deny having a problem. Although their families, friends, neighbors, doctors, or co-workers can see the problem quite clearly, the typical precontemplator can’t.”
Precontemplators resist change. They may change if there is enough constant external pressure, but once the pressure is removed, they quickly revert. Precontemplators are often demoralized and don’t want to think about their problem because they feel that the situation is hopeless. “There is certain comfort in recognizing that demoralization is a natural feeling that accompanies this stage-and in realizing that if you take yourself systematically through all the stages of change, you can change.”
Contemplation – “I want to stop feeling so stuck. Those simple words are typical of contemplators. In the contemplation stage, people acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it. Contemplators struggle to understand their problem, see its causes, and begin to wonder about possible solutions.”
However, while people in this stage may have vague plans to make changes, they are often not ready to take action yet. Many people remain in the contemplation stage for years.
Preparation – “The action stage is the one in which people most overtly modify their behavior and surroundings. They stop smoking, remove all desserts from the house, pour the last beer down the drain, or confront their fears. In short, they make the move for which they have been preparing.
Action is the most obviously busy period, and the one that requires the greatest commitment of time and energy. Changes made during the action stage are more visible to others than those made during other stages.”
It is important to realize that, while the action stage is the one that usually receives the most amount of recognition, it is not the only stage during which you can make progress toward overcoming your problem.
Maintenance – In the maintenance stage, you consolidate the gains you made in the action stage and work to prevent relapses.
This stage is a long, ongoing, and critically important process. We all know someone who lost many pounds on a diet, but regained them all in a few months. Successful maintenance requires active alertness.
Termination – The termination stage is the ultimate goal. Here, your former addiction or problem will no longer present any temptation or threat. You will not need to make any further effort and will exit the cycle of change.
However, some experts believe that certain problems cannot be terminated but only kept at bay.
Source: Prochaska, J.O, Norcross, J.C., Diclemente, C.C. (1994). Changing for Good. New York: Avon Books.
Knowing which stage of readiness you are in will help you to determine the kinds of goals you should set for yourself in order to help you achieve success. Like all major life changes, it is best to walk before you run, incremental but consistent change is key.
In addition be clear about what is motivating this change. Is it to improve and maintain better health, improve appearance or just feel better about yourself and your life in general? As long as your motivation is a healthy one it doesn’t matter what it is.
Looking to assess your readiness? Find out what stage you’re in by taking this Readiness Assessment Survey and share your results with us below.