Stages of Change

stages of change

The Stages of Change

At Habitats of Hope we utilize the “Stages of Change” model in order to determine the pathway to recovery that would best suit the individual. The following is a brief description of each stage and what it usually means to the individual.


“I don’t have a problem, you’re overreacting.”

“I’m just stressed, it’s normal.”

Precontemplators usually show up in treatment because of pressures from others such as spouses, employers, parents, and courts. When their problem comes up, they change the topic of conversation or minimize the negative impacts of their use. They place responsibility for their problems on factors such as genetic makeup, stress, family, society, the police, etc. They resist the idea of change because they don’t see how it would help anything. It isn’t that they can’t see a solution, it’s that they can’t see the problem. Some pre-contemplators feel helpless and that their situation is hopeless but can’t identify that their substance is the cause of their problems.


“I want to stop feeling so stuck!”

Contemplators acknowledge that their behaviors have caused problems and begin to think about solving it but are unsure if a change is a worthwhile endeavor. Contemplators struggle to understand the complexity of their problems, to see its true causes. Many contemplators have plans to take action at some time in the future (next week, next month, after this event, etc.), but not today. It is not uncommon for contemplators to tell themselves that someday they are going to change. Contemplators will often curb their use in this stage in an effort to prove they can manage on their own and don’t really have a problem. They know their destination, and even how to get there, but they’re not ready to go. The end of the contemplation stage is marked with a commitment to change their behavior because the negatives of their behavior are outweighing the positives. This is the decision that a change needs to be made, not the process of change.


“What must I do next? Will you help me?”

At this stage, people are accepting some responsibility to change their behavior. Most people in the preparation stage are evaluating different ways to initiate change and are developing a plan before they begin to change their behavior. They are willing to change and are able to see the benefits of change but still may need a little convincing that the reward is worth the work.


“I really want to do this. What can I do to continue to get better?”

The action stage is where people intentionally modify their behavior, their choices, and their surroundings. They are actively engaged in efforts to develop new skills and thought processes. This is the stage when a person begins to embrace change and consciously chooses new behaviors. This stage requires the greatest commitment of time and energy.


“I enjoy this new way of life and I enjoy helping others to change.”

Long term change never ends with the action stage. Without a strong commitment to maintenance, there will surely be a relapse, usually to the pre-contemplation or contemplation stage. In the maintenance stage, people have learned how to sustain a new behavior. They have created a new normal in their actions towards themselves and the world. In this stage, people are continuing to grow and develop in their new way of life and understand that continued growth is key to long term sobriety.