The stages of change are psychological stages that psychotherapists use to assess and evaluate psychological progress of patients under psychotherapy.
Assessing the patients’ psychological stages and customizing psychotherapy to be in line with their psychological progress, significantly enhances the outcomes of any psychotherapy. According to varied psychotherapy models, change in behavior undergoes six consecutive stages, namely “pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination” (Prochaska & Norcross 443).
For effective psychotherapy, psychological stages of patients must match with the respective psychotherapy. Therefore, it is imperative for a psychotherapist to assess and evaluate different stages of psychological process in order to administer a customized psychotherapy to the patients.
The six stages are consecutive and cumulative in terms of achievements necessary to make meaningful psychological changes, even though they take varied periods to accomplish. The first stage is pre-contemplation and it occurs when an individual is unable to solve a given psychological problem within six months.
At this stage, individuals are unaware of the psychological problem they have as they live in denial, but great pressure from concerned family members and friends makes them seek assistance psychotherapists. Contemplation is the second stage and it occurs if an individual is able to solve a certain psychological problem within six months.
According to Prochaska and Norcross, contemplators “are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it, but have not yet made a commitment to take action” (443). The acknowledgement of the existence of the problem and intensive contemplation of ways on how to overcome the problem characterize this stage.
The third stage is preparation and it entails intentional and behavioral aspects of psychotherapy. Patients who are at this stage have struggled unsuccessfully to solve a given psychological problem in the past year, but are now very determined to take action in a month’s time.
“While they have made some reductions in their problem, individuals in the preparation stage have not yet reached a criterion for effective action, such as abstinence from smoking or absence of clinical depression” (Prochaska & Norcross 444). These individuals are ready to take appropriate action in order to solve their psychological problems as soon as possible.
At the fourth stage, individuals adjust their behavior in relation to their experiences and environment to surmount their psychological problems. Behavioral changes that occur at this stage demand a lot of energy and more time thus calling for patience. Individuals at this stage have realized their psychological problems and are really working hard to solve them within six months of their resolution.
After the individuals have attained behavioral change through action stage, they enter maintenance stage, the fifth stage. At this stage, individuals are working tirelessly to consolidate and maintain marked behavioral changes attained in the previous stages. Prochaska and Norcross argue that “being able to remain free of the problem behavior and to consistently engage in a new incompatible behavior for more than six months are the criteria for considering someone to be in the maintenance stage” (444).
The objective of this stage is to prevent an individual from relapsing into the same problem. The last and the sixth stage is the termination stage where an individual has completed stages of changes and no longer worries about relapsing and recurrence of the problem again. At this stage, an individual attains total confidence in the achievements made, for the behavioral change has become real and permanent.
Prochaska, James, and John Norcross. “Stages of Change.” Psychology 38.4. (2001): 443-448. Print.