The Stages of Change: How Patience Builds Lasting Recovery

Achieving and maintaining sobriety from drugs and alcohol is a lifelong process. There are many kinds of treatments out there, and while many work, some do not. However, do not feel discouraged. Learning about your disorder is often a complex process that requires an in-depth examination of your behavior. Your behavior is linked to thoughts that are motivated by emotions. This is a chain of events that can create cravings, negative thoughts and destructive behavior. At Cliffside Malibu, we believe in the model of correcting your behavior and getting to the root of understanding your addiction. One of the therapies we offer is the six stages of the transtheoretical model.

Transtheoretical Model

The transtheoretical model, also known as the Stages of Change, works in stages to assess your readiness to act on healthier behavior. These stages integrate the most powerful principles and processes of change from leading theories, counseling, and behavior change. These changes focus on going beyond social and biological dimensions. They include critical constructs from other approaches that can be applied to various behaviors, populations and settings. This model has been 35 years in the making, backed by scientific research, and is relied upon by many professionals. Additionally, Cliffside Malibu was personally trained in these practices by James Prochaska, a professor of psychology and lead developer of this model. 

The Six Stages of Change

Within this therapy are six stages. While the duration of time spent in a particular stage varies, the techniques required to move into the next stage are not. This is because, within each stage, you focus on certain principles that work best to facilitate progress. While the movement through stages usually is linear, sometimes patients can cycle back through another phase. Cliffside Malibu will provide you with a therapist that you will meet consistently and work through these stages. The steps are as follows.

1. Precontemplation

Precontemplation is the first stage of the transtheoretical model. During this stage, you might feel that you are not or will not take action for your drug addiction or drinking problem in the future, typically six months ahead. When you are in this stage, you are seen as not ready. You might feel hesitant or even resistant, unmotivated and not wanting help. Further, your attempts to beat addictions might have you feeling demoralized because they were unsuccessful. However, this is because many treatment centers are not ready to meet your needs. Cliffside Malibu understands that progression is gradual. Consistency with the transtheoretical model will go beyond the initial doubt and help you open up to treatment.

2. Contemplation

Once you open up to the idea of being ready for help, contemplation is the next stage. This is commonly referred to as the “getting ready” stage. This stage is based upon your intention to change in the next six months. Through counseling and therapy, you will be aware of the pros of correcting your behavior and acutely aware of the cons. However, you will begin to recognize the problematic aspects of your behavior. Most patients at Cliffside Malibu become more thoughtful and practical about their behavior and couple these feelings with the positive pros of continuing treatment. However, feeling ambivalent toward changing your behavior is common. Remember, these stages are an effort to get you ready, not enforce treatment prematurely. Cliffside Malibu encourages that you continue at your pace until you are prepared for the next stage.

3. Preparation

The third stage is known as the ready stage. This occurs when you feel comfortable and safe in continuing. This is the process where you intend to take immediate action for the future (within the next month). If your treatment during the first two stages has lasted a year or so, you have already taken significant action to want to change your behavior – let this thought motivate you. This stage focuses primarily on bringing structure into your day to help motivate you and hold you accountable. These practices and activities could be joining a gym, seeking a counselor, or taking up hobbies like music, painting, writing or meditation. Taking these small and careful steps start to influence your thoughts to create a behavior that seeks healthier change. 

4. Action

In the fourth stage, action comes after a six-month period during which you have made specific and substantial modifications to your life. Since your actions are observable, this helps enact a positive behavioral change because you see and live your progress. Most of your significant change will happen during this stage because you build on a foundation of developing good habits and structure into your life.

5. Maintenance

Remember, excelling at any one step is only one part of lifelong sobriety. You must remember to maintain criteria from all stages to flourish. Challenges in life are inevitable, and you must incorporate what you’ve learned when this happens. Correctly implemented, this process can reduce cravings that present themselves when maintaining sobriety. When you reach this stage, your chances of relapse are decreased. The longer you maintain motivation, the lower your chances for relapse become. So remember to keep working on maintaining everything!

6. Stability

In this final stage, your therapist at Cliffside Malibu will work with you and help build with you the tools needed to resist the urges that are present from triggers and often lead to relapse. Since most patients who practice these stages remain in the fifth stage, Cliffside Malibu wants to remind patients that stability is a critical stage. Unlike maintenance, stability is the manifestation of lasting recovery, and you should never overlook this. You have support from your doctors and therapists to get help if challenges do arise. 

Recovery is a lifelong journey and you should always put it first. There is nothing more fulfilling than living a life unburdened by your addiction. While you might feel excited to join a treatment program that offers you a sure thing, research their methods and try to discover whether the treatment will build you from the inside out. At Cliffside Malibu, we aim to do just this. We offer the care and patience needed to rehabilitate your life. We also believe in the power that the Stages of Change provide because recovery is about building change in a person, not enforcing it. Never feel like you are out of options; get help today. Call Cliffside Malibu at (855) 403-5641 to learn more.