A Process of Change Model
We are all under construction ... we are forever changing ... no human is really in a fixed state although we all feel stuck, still or frozen from time to time. 'As if' life is static or we get in a rut of the same old patterns which keep us somewhere under the rainbow. Sometimes a good thing if all is well in our individual world and we are choosing to be still mindfully and life is flowing calmly, happily and peace reins.
This static 'feeling' is our Point of Poise, our stability where we sit balanced within our core self, however our point of poise may although it sounds healthy may well be unhealthy, we may be sat in our ‘comfort zone’ not wanting to move. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t!
We all have a resting point, our comfort zone is our pattern of what feels comfortable, our familiar feelings, our routine. Our ‘normal’ and our habits and the place where we know our self the best, what we will accept and not accept, our beliefs, values, desires want and needs. Our comfort zone is the place we sit without question!
Sat in our safe harbor we may be free from, or numbed out from our pain, if we think about doing something new those familiar feelings of angst appear our stomach is filled with butterflies, we might begin to sweat and furrow our brow our mouth might become dry and swallowing is more difficult, some may even feel nauseous or on the verge of a panic. This was all from a thought about taking some new action!
A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for!
Negative feelings, being in a rut, being stuck, numbed out, overwhelmed or frozen is a signal its time to make some changes. Change which is long lasting is taken one step at a time, first you have to build a boat, your ship will take time before its ready to weather the sea. Some days you will forge ahead and others you will rest and take stock, remember what ever had you moored up took some time for you to arrive there and so it figures that it will take some time to heal and set sail on calm waters.
Like ships the Humanists Carl Roger, Abraham Maslow and Carl Jung believe humans are not meant to be static we are meant to drive ourselves to Individuation (Jung) or Self-actualization (Rogers/Maslow). What this means is we have a compass for the potential within us to become all that we are capable of becoming, self-fulfilling, separate yet interacting people, interdependent and intradependent; that is a person who is self-sufficient whilst at the same time able to ask for support when needed. We can achieve our fullest potential though creativity, spontaneity, independence and fulfilling our own needs, problem solving. Practices such as Meditation, self-discovery and self-analysis. We can separate fact from fiction and eliminate prejudice once we are rowing our boats towards our fullest potential. All for one and one for all!
The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992) is an integrative, biopsychosocial model to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change.
It looks something like this:
Please click on the image to expand
Where do you sit on the change process?
Change is a tough process to go through and the well-known and recognized Change Model created from extensive research shows us the possibility that we may go through different stages before we actually begin changing and making any change permanent.
It was first used to understand how and why some people can stop smoking without any struggle to others who struggled and struggled, the model is widely used in alcohol and drug addiction; but it is a useful way to look at how any of change.
It may be helpful to understand what processes are going on within before we contemplate changing and during any changing of habits and behaviours.
In action the stages look something like this:
Stage 1 – pre-contemplation
At the beginning of any change we need to recognise that change is needed! In this stage we may be oblivious to the fact change is needed, ignorance is bliss. Or we may know we need to change but can’t think about the effort to change for example I might need to lose weight, I’ve tried to lose weight many times and failed. I put the issues of losing weight out of mind and don’t think about the change which is needed for my health because even the thought is overwhelming, so I stop thinking about it. Ignorance is bliss!
Stage 2 – Contemplation
At stage I might start to think about the weight issues, acknowledging I am overweight and that to lose weight would be beneficial to me and my overall wellbeing, I spend a lot of time in this stage because to actually start losing weight will take away my comfort of eating!
I could stay in this stage for a very long time because I don’t want my comfort to change so I procrastinate over and over about the issue of changing my comfort zone! I resist the fact that change is needed because … well I find any reason (excuse) to not start the diet I might tell myself “it will be too hard”, “I’ve tried before (belief’s) and it didn’t work”, all my negative ‘automatic thought’ creep in and help me resist starting to change i.e. “I can’t”, I’m failed last time, so I’ll fail this time”. Or my self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in “there you go, I told you, you couldn’t do it”! I this stage I might need to look at my self-defeating thoughts and beliefs before any change can take place!
Stage 3 – Preparation
In this stage we are determined and begin to put a plan together we might be thinking about tackling the block to losing weight, we book in to see a counsellor to support us, so we can explore thoughts and self-defeating beliefs, or we might book an appointment at the gym to test it out. If an addict I will find out who can help me go forward to reach my goal of changing my behaviour with the substance. We are planning to take action but perhaps don’t know how, what, where and when we will start to change.
Stage 4 - Action
When our plan has been thought about and we’ve prepared to begin change we can act and put the plan into action. We are learning new things about our particular issue and becoming more aware of what needs to be done. This stage can take some time our desire to change is noticeable in our behaviour for the dieter they are buying different food, focusing on nutrition and what is healthy and what is not so healthy. For the addict they have stopped using and for the person self-sabotaging they have removed the blocks and now change is evident in their behaviours. However, change has been happening subtly all the time before we’ve got to this place since we have travelled through stages 1-3. This stage is where we achieve our goals and replace the old habit with the new!
Stage 5 - Maintenance
Once we have taken action and are well into our healthy eating, we’re probably feeling the benefits of losing some weight and are feeling more energized and a renewed vitality. We need to start to think about maintaining our new behaviours. This can be thought of as a transitional stage from the old to the new so if we don’t actively take on board this stage, then we are more than likely to drift back to our ‘old habits’ “one burger won’t hurt”, “a few pints over a few days one week won’t hurt”. We soon can slip back into our old habits and start eating unhealthily again. This stage can be difficult because we have made changes, but they are not yet cemented as our ‘new normal’ so we are still having to ‘maintain’ our vigilance on slipping backwards whilst engaging in the new behaviours and it may mean focusing on the action stage for quiet some time anything from 6mths to 5 years before the old habits are banished for good. For example, I stopped smoking 20 years ago however, I still ‘fancy’ a cigarette on occasion and I have the attitude that I am only one cigarette away from becoming a smoker again. I don’t want that so still at times I have to be vigilance to slipping back to smoking. To enable us to maintain the new behaviours we might need to remind ourselves from time to time I don’t do that any more i.e. smoke, misuse alcohol or drugs, I don’t eat unreality to maintain our new behaviours.
Stage 6 – Termination
Once new awareness, skills and knowledge has been integrated, the new behaviours become the ‘norm’ and there is little risk of us lapsing or relapsing into the old habits, our maintenance is on-going, and we are building resiliency in all areas of our living. We know we are only one burger, one cigarette, one drink or one day away from not maintaining our new behaviours. From time to time the old craving remerge but we take stock and weight up the pros and cons of smoking or misusing or eating unhealthily again, we know we have a choice to do so or not do so we choose accordingly! We usually are completely committed to the new habits and certain that we will never return to the old unhealthy habits again. The new has now become our ‘automatic’ go to with one eye on the maintenance stage to keep us in check from lapsing or relapsing into the old way of being!
The process of change can be difficult and there is no point in changing for the sake of change! When our comfort zone is not healthy we need to take action, but we need to balance action with in-action and rest to remain safe!
Change is a process it won’t and can’t happen overnight, the ship travels from one shore to another and in-between the weather may have changed several times from calm too blustery too turbulent back too calm too choppy too stormy, too variable until it reaches the far off shore safely too rest before setting sail again. Our healing journey parallels the ships travels.
If your coping strategies are unhealthy and limiting your experience by 'leaking' out in life limiting ways for example denying, ignoring, justifying, entitlement, alcohol misuse, eating disorders, yo yo dieting, gambling, shopaholic getting into debt, OCD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, dissociation, repeating unhealthy behavioural patterns, relationship problems etc etc than the change model can offer structure to your healing process.