First 30 Days Blog

13 jun

Addiction Stages of Change

RobertCordrayChanging any behavior doesn’t happen overnight, and drug addiction is certainly no exception. On the road to change, people tend to go through several different stages, and the length of time spent in each of these stages varies for everyone.

The Stages of Change Model was first developed in the late 1970’s by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente at the University of Rhode Island. It describes five stages of readiness and provides a framework to better understand the change process. Success in recovery from addiction hinges upon interventions tailored to match a person’s readiness for change and their ability to effectively move through each of the five stages. Interventions that do not match the person’s readiness are more likely to damage rapport, create resistance and impede change.

The cognitive and behavioral stages of change are:

  1. Pre-Contemplative
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
  6. Relapse (not a part of change, but commonly occurs during the change process)


People in this stage are not aware of any need to change. Pressuring someone in this stage to seek help will likely push them further away, as they are generally not interested in any type of help and often become defensive when approached by any outside efforts or pressure to get them to quit. If you are trying to help a friend or family member become aware of their problem, start with a positive approach where you help them try to see the consequences of what they are doing. Take a self-inventory to assess whether anything you are doing is enabling the person to continue their behavior.


In this second stage of change, people begin to become more aware of the consequences of their behavior and wonder if they should deal with it. Often a person will feel quite ambivalent about this decision. Likely, the person may have experienced consequences of their behavior such as a DUI, problems at work or home or health concerns that have prompted them to weigh the pros and cons of their choices. When a person has entered this stage, try to reinforce the cons of continuing with drugs and the pros of sobriety.


A person in this third stage of change may have made statements such as, “I’ve got to do something about this. I can’t go on living this way.” They are ready to research their options and find out what can help and how to make the life changes they desire. Taking time for research at this point is critical in the change process because it allows a person to learn about various methods or clinics and begin to accept all that will be required of them as they move towards cessation and recovery.


At this fourth stage, a person has begun dealing with their addiction by fulfilling a treatment plan and doing things such as attending regular professional treatment or participating in AA meetings. A person in this stage needs the patience and support of those around them more than ever, as they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms and emotional effects from giving up the thing that has been most important to them up until this point. If you are in this stage, set short-term goals and seek continuous support.


In this fifth stage, a person has dealt with the initial challenges of change and should acquire skills and set new rules in their life to avoid relapse. It is important for people in this stage to remind themselves of how far they have come and how their change has impacted their own life as well as the lives around them. Continued support at this stage is just as important to help avoid relapse.


Because relapse is so common among drug addicts, many professionals include relapse as a possible part of the stages of change. It is easy for a person in recovery to fall back into old ways because staying sober is a learning process. If someone has experienced relapse, remind them of their hard work and the positive changes they have made in their life.

Regardless of what stage of change a person is in, those suffering from addiction problems can seek help through different types of treatment or long term drug rehab to help them through their own personal process of change.

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Posted by Robert Cordray on June 13th, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments Read related posts in , , ,

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