All of us have attempted to change or modify our behaviours at one time or another. That all means all of us have experienced the frustration when change does not come easily, or it does not come at all. In the 1980’s, researchers Prochaska and DiClemente developed the Transtheoretical Model to explain how people embark on a path toward change. This biopsychosocial model integrates information from previous research and provides a theory of change that can be applied to anyone who is attempting to change anything within themselves.
The foundation of this theory lies with the consistent stages of change that people travel through when they are attempting to modify their behaviour. Although each person will spend a different amount of time at each stage, the journey through the stages is consistent and the tasks required to move forward to the next stage are common to all who are moving from struggle to success in changing habits and behaviours.
Studies have shown that only a minority of people who are attempting to change can achieve long term success without guidance and support. Use of the Transtheoretical Model in therapeutic coaching results in improved outcomes for most people, as it incorporates assessing readiness for change, and principles promoting balance and self-determination in setting small goals along the way. This differs from most people’s thoughts about change, as it proposes that successful change occurs in small increments and with a series of changes over time, and does not simply focus on a culminating event (such as quitting smoking or losing pounds).
Simply put, an individual needs to assess where they fall on a continuum of stages of change before they can take action in formulating a change strategy.
The stages are as follows:
- Precontemplative (not ready to think about change)
- Contemplative (getting ready to change and making plans)
- Preparation (ready to put the plan into action)
- Action (taking active steps to change and engaging in change)
- Maintenance (using the skills learned to maintain the change behaviour)
As people travel through these changes, their choices and decisions start to shift in favour of the change (think about a “pro and con list”). As they become more motivated toward change, and they see success, the “pro-change” list starts to become longer, and overshadows the “con-change list”. In short, the advantages of change (such as weight loss and improved health) outweigh the disadvantages (such as the time and energy it takes to count calories and exercise).
Successes lead to increased confidence and commitment to change and ability to counter or avoid potential “relapse” situations that can sabotage change. That’s an interesting part of this theory too…it incorporates the concept of “relapse” into the model. It recognizes that people may (and likely will) “fall off the wagon” from time to time. However, the higher one is on the change continuum, the quicker they can recover from the relapse by utilizing the strategies and techniques that they used to move their way up in the first place. In addition, by recognizing relapse as a reality, one can develop strategies for managing difficult or challenging situations that may threaten their change BEFORE they occur.
If you are considering changing a habit or behaviour in some part of your life, consider this information, and think about how some extra support through therapeutic coaching could help you achieve your goals.