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The 5 Stages of Change: What Step are You On?

The 5 Stages of Change: What Step are You On?

At some point or another in our lives, we decide we need a change. This may be related to changing our attitudes, habits, body, or any number of things. Think about all those who embark on journeys to quit smoking, lose weight, return to school, improve their marriage, organize their home or knock out debt. Those examples of changing aren't easily done overnight, are they?


Many times I've heard the expression, the best way to get things done is to simply begin. Well, it ain't that easy, is it? Just diving into a significant change willy nilly isn't the answer. Often times when we do something before we're good and ready it leads to the change effort stalling out. Why is that?


There are two well-known researchers in the field of alcoholism, Carlo DiClemente and James O. Prochaska who developed a five-stage model of change to help treaters understand their client's addiction problems and motivation to change. Their model is known as The Transtheoretical Model or simply the Stages of Change Model. The five steps include Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. This model has been shown to be helpful in understanding not just motivation to overcome addiction, but many other lifelong changes. I'll relate them to changing hoarding behavior below:


Precontemplation Stage 

During this stage, an individual has no intention of changing their behavior. "I won't do it!"

Example: Family members might tell this person that they have too much stuff in their home and rooms are unsafe.


Contemplation Stage 

The person is aware a problem exists but is not ready to commit to taking action. "I can't do it!"

Example: An individual might realize they keep wasting money on buying things they already have. 


Preparation Stage 

The individual is willing to take action. "How do I do it?"

Example: The person may start researching mental health counselors or professional organizers in the area or start to lurk in on-line clutter support groups. 


Action Stage 

The person is actively trying to modify their behavior. "I can do it!"

Example: The individual starts attending sessions with a therapist and/or organizer and begins de-cluttering areas of their home.


Maintenance Stage 

Sustained change by the individual is evident. Their new positive behavior replaces the old. "I did it!"

Example: The individual is avoiding their triggers (tag sales, favorite stores) and there are more clear surfaces in the home. 


I never want to present my clients with the option that they either have to take action to change or stay stuck where they are. These choices are so limiting; taking action when one's not ready will result in failure or choosing the option of remaining stagnant means the unhealthy behavior continues. Ultimately I want to acknowledge where my client is on this model and work out solutions based on their current stage. 


I'd love to hear about the habit you're changing/have changed in the comments below. What step are you on in this model?


Categories: Mental Health / Hoarding


  • Kim
    Love this Sarah. Hoarding is really an addiction. The Stages of Change totally fit. Participants in a peer group that I supervise say that when they fall off the wagon they are able to get back on track quicker.
    8/15/2017 6:28:12 AM Reply
    • @Kim: Thanks for the positive feedback Kim. How great that you supervise a peer group. I can imagine that positive peer pressure does help participants get back on track easier if they lose sight of their goals. Having accountability to someone is a great motivator!
      8/15/2017 8:49:24 AM Reply
  • I'm on an ongoing quest to better prioritize my tasks. I'm at the Action Stage. For the past few years I've blocked one day a week to work on writing and other marketing tasks, but it was no longer working for me. This week I've scheduled one or more marketing tasks for every day, giving me five days for client work instead of four.
    8/15/2017 5:50:10 AM Reply
    • @Janet Barclay: How great that you realized that the one full day of marketing projects wasn't working and you needed a change. Let me know how spreading it out over the 5 days goes. Building it into your daily routine might just be the ticket! Hope it works!
      8/15/2017 8:47:04 AM Reply
  • I always learn from your posts! It is important to give yourself permission to be somewhere in front of the "action" stage. I often find I wait to work on something until I am "in the mood." Once I'm ready, I go for it. I'm never sure what gets me to this stage, but I always find I make better progress when I get there.
    8/11/2017 4:25:02 PM Reply
    • @Seana Turner: Thanks, Seana. I'm like you in that I have to have that urge to do something or else it doesn't happen. And when I get on a roll I git-r-done! Lol :)
      8/12/2017 4:17:30 PM Reply

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