To Change or Not to Change?

Often a person enters into therapy stating that they need to make a change (or changes) in their lives. These desired changes generally fall into the category of adjustments to thoughts, circumstances, and/or behaviors. But first, a distinction needs to be made: Is this sought-after change coming directly from the client or are they receiving pressure from another or others? The reason for this is that a person’s motivation for change is one of the most important factors that influences successful outcomes.

 “Don’t change yourself just to make someone happy, unless that someone is you.” -Unknown

Other important elements that need to be assessed are: reasons for seeking change, awareness of how these “no longer desirable” thoughts, circumstances, and/or behaviors affect their daily lives, and how they imagine this change will benefit them. Once this groundwork is laid, it’s time to begin the process (which can be grueling).

Stages of Change

Researchers developed a five-stage change model to explain the necessary phases involved in the intentional change process:

Precontemplation: This is the period of time when the individual is not yet motivated. They may be aware of the fact that change is a possibility but they have no intentions on taking action at this point. A good example here is a long time smoker knowing that they “should” quit to benefit their health but are not yet ready to do so.

Contemplation: During this stage, the person begins to consider the positive and negative aspects of changing this particular thought pattern, circumstance, or behavior. Although this is considered the “getting ready” phase, it is not uncommon for people to spend a long time procrastinating in this stage. An example is a 26-year-old son considering the pros and cons of moving out of his parent’s house but is stalling because he is comfortable.

Preparation: At this point the individual has decided that they want to change and begins to conceptualize how that is going to look. Here, they are mentally developing a plan and getting into the mind set necessary for said change. A good example is a woman in her 40’s deciding that she wants to go back to school to get her master’s degree and researching the steps required to do so.

Action: This is when the person begins taking concrete steps toward the desired change. They push through any insecurities and fears of failure. They set goals for themselves and follow through with the tasks needed to accomplish them. An example is someone deciding to change his or her pessimistic outlook on life and begins seeing a therapist on a weekly basis.

MaintenanceBy now, the person is hopefully experiencing the benefits that they had once hoped for. They become more confident in having achieved their desired change. Now, in order to solidify this transformation, it is important to develop a support system. An example is someone who has reached sobriety for the past few months committing to 3 weekly AA meetings.

A Change Will Do You Good

Once the desired change is accomplished, it provokes a boost in self-esteem. Successful transformation encourages people to want to improve other areas of their lives as well. For some, the process becomes a challenge that they embrace and even look forward to. As long as the intention of change comes from within, is tangible, and could prove to be beneficial then go for it!!