You did it! You decided you could benefit from therapy. You looked for a therapist. You found a therapist. You are going to therapy. So now what?
Most people come to therapy with some idea of what changes they would like to see in themselves. It is kind of like embarking on a fitness journey. You know you want to achieve a goal: run further, lift more, increase strength and stamina. When we are talking about something you can measure, gauging progress is pretty straightforward, as you can time your runs or track how much you can lift. Sometimes the gains are significant, sometimes you feel like you move backward or sometimes you are happy to maintain the status quo. This isn’t much different than measuring progress in therapy, but there is one glitch: there aren’t necessarily measured milestones that you can actually quantify. So, how do you know you are actually moving in the right direction when you are in therapy?
Here are four ways you can observe progress in therapy:
1. Ok, maybe you CAN measure!
Simply tracking what you are trying to achieve can be a helpful way to see that you are progressing or notice when you are hitting a plateau. There are many apps out there that can help track mood and make connections to what you have been doing and whether this activity actually enhances or detracts from your positive feelings. When we are stuck in the mud of depression, anxiety and overall negativity, we tend to give far more weight to the bad days than the good. Tracking helps you see the small glimmers of hope, even if they seem to be buried under the s#&t.
Daylio is an example of a simple app that asks you to reflect how you are feeling (think awesome, good, meh or crummy) and then asks you to choose from a selection of activities that you participated in that day. Over time, you will start to see patterns. For example, you feel better on the days you ride your bike. Or you notice a low mood when you spend time with a certain person. Tracking mood is a good way to look for patterns and activities that contribute or detract from your positive feelings, your sense of life satisfaction or areas where some change may be needed.
2. Journal your thoughts.
Be inquisitive! You can simply google online journal prompts that can help you quickly answer thought provoking questions that will ultimately allow you to “brain dump” your thoughts, see your emotions written down on paper and again, look for themes. Asking yourself a powerful question is a great way to dig deeper. Here are a couple of examples:
What do I REALLY want?
What was my role (in a negative interaction)?
What is life asking me to do differently?
What gets me out of bed each day?
What needs my immediate attention?
Just a few minutes of your time a couple of times a week can really help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself, the skills you are developing in therapy and the stuff you still need to work on. If you make a habit of engaging in these quick reflections, you will see progress when you look back at entries and notice how you may have changed perspective, what you are emphasizing or what changes you have actually made in your world.
3. Ask others.
It is okay to ask for a little feedback now and then. Most of us forget to comment when we see positive change in someone, and it is safe to say that your spouse, best friend or family member may not have taken the time to actually comment on your progress. Look to people you trust and ask them if they have noticed anything different about you and your actions. Maybe you are working on your anger and you have been trying to put a little distance between your reaction and your action. Maybe you are trying to connect with your partner more frequently. Simply asking someone you trust to share their observations of you can be a helpful way to know you are on the right path (not perfect, but walking on the right path!). If you are deathly afraid of negative feedback, be more direct with the question: “what am I doing well?” is a good question to ask. It forces the observer to look toward the positive things and share them. You may be surprised at their answer (and that’s awesome!).
If you need to muster up a little courage before asking, be observant. Have you noticed fewer conflicts with your teenager? Have you been getting more sleep, and waking up refreshed (and less grumpy) and the morning routine is not as chaotic as it once was? Small gains lead to big change!
4. Ask your therapist.
Always remember that your therapy is just that; YOUR THERAPY! Your therapist is working for you. In order for therapy to be effective, open lines of communication are essential. If you don’t feel therapy is working, tell your therapist! A great therapist will be happy to explore this with you. This doesn’t mean you are “doing therapy wrong”! It means that you want to talk about what is working for you and what isn’t. That is brave and shows a willingness to do the hard things!
The more information you give your therapist about how you see things, how you communicate and learn and how you are feeling about your sessions, the better. Therapists have a myriad of tools in their toolbox. If this means adjusting how you are working together, your therapist will be all for it. Now if you don’t feel like your therapist is hearing you, perhaps this therapist is not the one for you…and that’s ok. Sometimes it takes awhile to realize you need to do things differently. But the last thing you need to do is stay with a therapist because you don’t want to hurt THEIR feelings!
You do your best to choose a therapist who seems like a fit. The truth of the matter is that a therapist may have been a fit earlier in your time together, but you may have evolved and need to talk to someone with a different level of experience or expertise. Remember, you are the consumer. Open and honest communication with your therapist will clear the air around misunderstandings and roadblocks. It may mean your therapist will remind you that leaning into the tough stuff needs to happen before things get better (and that is part of their master plan), but hearing that and knowing they have heard you will help you know that you are walking on the right path, however slowly it may feel.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: small gains lead to big change! Look for clues that you are progressing, and create a safe space to track (your phone, a journal, your laptop). Look back at your observations frequently, but be patient and gentle with yourself. You’ve got this!Learn More
A Social Worker’s Path and Reflections on Why Social Work “Works”
In the early 90’s, I was a university student who was looking for direction. I had been studying sociology and as graduation loomed, I was unsure as to what I would do with this degree and how I would step onto the quickly moving treadmill of adulting. Enter social work. I had always felt I had an ability to listen, problem solve, advocate and help others, but I really wasn’t sure how I could translate these skills into something real. I decided to do some research, and ultimately, moving the focus of my studies to social work was the best decision I could have made.
My involvement in this field quickly revealed that being a social worker involved far more than working in the social welfare system or child protection services. I learned that being a social worker did not necessarily mean I was a “bleeding heart”, a “do-gooder” or a rebel whose goal was to constantly challenge the status quo. I soon realized that a social work education would place me on the path that would change the way I viewed the world and would eventually become my calling.
Fast forward over 20 years. I am a proud social worker who has been fortunate enough to have a varied career, working in the trenches of the criminal justice system, supporting victims and those who are marginalized, helping people of all ages navigate emotional and mental health challenges, teaching bright, enthusiastic students and finally, landing in private practice. Every day I have the privilege of helping my clients slog through the mud of hurt and pain to support them to identify their strengths and come out the other side feeling strong and empowered. It is truly a rewarding career which continues to bring me joy and satisfaction.
In honour of social work month, I thought I would share my top five reasons why I love being a social worker.
We look at the person in the system
Social Work is different from other helping professions. Although we possess the skills to counsel and provide therapy, we do so through a lens of looking at the person in the context of the systems that surround them. We believe that looking at a person as one who has a problem that needs to be fixed over-simplifies pain, heartache and trauma. We are all humans who are part of families, friend groups, communities, and workplaces. Acknowledging this is critical to avoiding labels and making generalizations. Ultimately, one of the primary benefits of this approach is that it empowers individuals to make better decisions as to where they want to focus their time and energy as a means of safeguarding their mental and emotional health.
We foster clarity
Working with a social worker involves a collaborative approach to understanding functioning, identifying dysfunctions, empowering one to work toward clarifying values and goals, communicating needs, managing stress and conflict and building upon strengths and skills to continually grow and evolve. Knowing what you believe in and when there is a conflict with your values helps identify the source of conflict. It is at that point that clients of social workers can feel empowered to identify what they want to change and how they are going to accomplish that change in a supportive environment.
Once the therapeutic relationship helps you examine conflicts and sources of pain in your world, you can be empowered to take action. Navigating these systems when all the moving parts seem to be working well is challenging. However, when we factor in trauma, abuse, childhood issues, and the demands of day to day life, a full assessment of the person in the system is a necessary part of providing the support needed to move forward. We empower our clients as we help them look at their strengths rather than focussing on their deficiencies. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate the problems, but it results in a shift that empowers.
We collaborate and advocate
Because we look at systems we help identify when connecting with other supports is needed. We will help our clients find the words to self-advocate, or with their permission, we can share our observations with others who are involved in your circle of care in order to provide support collaboratively, keeping our client’s needs as the top priority for all involved.
We provide a safe space
Working with someone who cares about you but who isn’t in a personal relationship with you helps you examine relationships, understand what you value and learn how you can empower you to decide where you want to put your energy to start living the life you want to live. Therapy sessions are where our clients unload emotions and examine perspectives. This safe place to try using new-found skills and look at the roadmap of choices before taking action creates confidence and moves toward action.
We need social work now, more than ever. Consider connecting with an experienced, qualified social worker if you want to feel better, gain perspective, experience empowerment and put yourself on a road to sustaining and maintaining support for your wellness. To find a therapist who can meet your needs, go to www.maratoscounselling.com. Therapist listing sites such as psychologytoday.com list therapists who can help as well. Look for the RSW (Registered Social Worker) credential to find a therapist who is a trained social worker who is registered with the Ontario Association of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.Learn More
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me”
Through the last two years, we as therapists have noticed an increase in folks who have sought out therapy for the first time in their lives, because “they don’t know what’s wrong”. This has been a refrain for all of us at various times during the pandemic. It is upsetting, frustrating, overwhelming…(all the feels) to not feel like ourselves, and to have no idea how to pull out of it because everything that usually helps does not seem to be working.
When we are feeling unwell and our coping skills are depleted, our minds can spin out of control with “what ifs” around possible chronic mental health issues, diagnoses, dependence on medications and the need for professional intervention. It is a scary reality to think we are stuck and unsure if these feelings will ever relent.
As I sat down to write this blog, I decided to google “Am I depressed or…?” to see what popped up. Here is a small sampling: Am I depressed or sad, lazy, tired, bored, burned out, bipolar? WOW! What a laundry list of inquiries, ranging from questioning and attempting to label emotions to querying mental health and diagnosis. We as therapists are pleased that people are becoming more aware of their emotions and mental health, and how they both impact their day to day habits and quality of life. We also worry that the feelings of hopelessness and the overwhelming volume of information on mental health that is all over the internet can actually exacerbate symptoms, rather than providing comfort or relief.
There are literally thousands of tools, therapy interventions and medical treatments used to assess, diagnose and treat depression that need to be utilized by a trained professional. There are also many valid informational and educational pieces on depression out there that you can use to first sort through the symptoms you are experiencing, gain an understanding of the severity of them, learn how to assess and incorporate day to day habits that may help ease symptoms, and finally help you to make informed decisions about seeking professional support.
Here is one, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), that provide useful information on depression, diagnosis, coping and treatment. Remember that this is not to be used as a substitute for professional advice and support, but it is from an accredited, professional organization that aims to educate so that you can self-assess before making decisions about reaching out for support.
I think I am depressed…now what?
One of the most studied and supported treatments for depression comes from psychiatrist Aaron Beck, called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). To put it very simply, one of the pillars of CBT is the Cognitive Triangle. This triangle helps us examine the intertwined relationship between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. When you are doing CBT with a trained professional, you are learning how to identify negative and intrusive thoughts that impact how you feel about yourself, your situation and your relationships, which in turn impact the choices you make about how you behave or respond. Again, professional support to help with this triangle is just one of the keys to managing depression, but doing a self-assessment check-in on your own can be a powerful way to understand whether or not to seek professional support to confirm a diagnosis, or treatment to help manage these thoughts and make some changes for the better.
Check Your Thoughts
Many of us resort to googling information on any issue we are faced with, whether it be a leaky faucet or our mental health. We do this because it feels safer to “DIY” our problem, so that we don’t have to say it out loud (because that makes it more real), and so we can hopefully find a solution that we hope will be an easy fix. The other reason we often start with Google is because we are feeling some shame around the issue and the act of even asking for help. Many of us hold longstanding and firmly planted beliefs around the concept of admitting to a problem (think perfectionism) and asking for help (think “weakness”, “incompetence”, and feeling “less than”).
Challenge yourself to really identify your thoughts around what you are experiencing, and how these thoughts may be roadblocking your ability to manage your moods, relationships and overall functioning. It is so easy to believe everything that pops into our heads. The truth is, a lot of what we think about ourselves is hyper-critical, and is driven by fear and shame. Newsflash: we don’t have to listen to these messages!
Check Your Feelings
As therapists, we hear clients using “negative self-talk”, whether it be out loud, or in their heads to put themselves down, name call, and shame themselves for experiencing what are actually normal and healthy feelings. Throughout the pandemic, many of us have resorted to “numbing behaviours” such as scrolling through our phones or Netflix bingeing because we have just not had the will or the energy to identify feelings, much less actually feel them! If this sounds like you, try to get into the habit of asking yourself “what am I actually feeling right now?” Identifying the feeling and actually naming it will help you manage it, rather than pushing it further within by seeking quick fix and feeling-numbing behaviours that actually take us into a perpetual shame spiral of negative self-talk.
Check Your Behaviours
Here comes your mother’s, fitness instructor’s, therapist’s, doctor’s voice: get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, eat your vegetables, go for a walk, and practice mindfulness. “YUP, got it,” you are saying (me too). The issue for most of us is not that we need this knowledge, it is ensuring that we actually practice these behaviours.
Let’s go back to the thoughts part of this cognitive triangle. When we are feeling depressed, our minds generally block out these simple, yet challenging habits which we know in our heads will help us feel better. Depression can almost act like a magnet that keeps us attached to our bed, sofa, phone or computer screen, thereby blocking out the will to incorporate habits that will naturally increase the happiness chemicals in our brains and will contribute to us feeling even a little better. Again, the shame-spiral of knowing that you already know what to do to feel better but not being able to push yourself to actually do it is activated, thus leaving you feeling further down and depressed.
Just having a basic understanding of this cognitive triangle can be helpful to become more self-aware of our feelings, moods and behaviours. The smallest bit of self-awareness and the tiniest of changes is progress. Drinking one glass of water instead of none, reaching out to a friend to walk and talk, or getting into bed 15 minutes earlier than usual is all part of living the change.
So if you are reading this and still asking yourself whether or not you need help to cope with this post-pandemic reality, the answer is YES! We all do. The past two years have been a harrowing and traumatic experience for every single one of us. For some, emotional and mental health issues that existed before the pandemic have increased in intensity and severity. For others, the current set of circumstances has led to new and uncomfortable emotions that have taken a toll on quality of life.
Seeking the support of a qualified, experienced therapist will help you sort through your own cognitive triangle and make choices around the next steps to take to alleviate the symptoms on one end of the spectrum, to seeking out more intensive and long-term interventions on the other. Regardless, reaching out for professional help will ensure you are getting outside of your head and that you are not walking the path to feeling better all alone.Learn More
When a family spends time together, they learn about each other.
One simple way is to ask the “what as good about your day? What was not so good about your day?” questions, going around the table at dinner. This facilitates conversation and gives everyone a chance to share. Even though our worlds are much smaller, you will be surprised at how everyone has had ups and downs. As parents, use this to stay in tune with what your kids are feeling, how they are experiencing this situation, and what they need from you and each other.
And YES, work really hard to eat together. It should be MUCH easier now, as nobody is going anywhere. Make eating together a top priority TODAY. A structured conversation will help identify holes and challenges in our family rules and values and will help you relax or tighten them up where needed.
We have gone through the stages of grief in mourning the loss of our “normal” everyday. We are now several weeks into this isolation, and my guess is, you are settling into the “new normal”.
Most families suffer due to a lack of structure and routine. Have a family meeting to build a VERY SIMPLE daily schedule. What needs to be included? Basic needs of course, but what about exercise, creative time, academics? Set and enforce a schedule, and don’t be afraid to use technology to help with this (family schedules, setting timers, making lists, etc.). Don’t forget to schedule fun. Lots and lots of fun.Learn More
Think about how your family communicates. Do you listen to respond, or do you listen to really listen? Think about it.
Learning how to be a good listener means shutting your mouth. Enough said. Try it. Interrupters unite! I come from a long line of interrupters. If you need a “talking stick” (or hockey puck, stuffed animal, etc), get one! Whoever holds the speaking object has the floor.
Next, think about how you show others that you are listening. Do you nod, paraphrase their statements, state your understanding, empathize? The ways in which you show family members that their stories, their experiences, their feelings are important will begin to cultivate understanding, create connection and attachment.Learn More
READ THIS IF YOU HAVE SCHOOL AGE KIDDOS AND/OR TEENS
Talk, talk, and talk. Have a chat about how the kids think parents can help them develop these values and the habits that go with them. Start with brainstorming and then move to develop some concrete rules around conduct and behaviour in the home. Parents, be vulnerable. Share how it is hard for you to maintain the self-discipline to “walk the walk” every day. Share your struggles and make yourself human. This is especially applicable to parents of school-age children and teens. Let your kids contribute! LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, parents. You will learn a lot about your kids if you ask them to contribute and you exercise your parenting muscle to set boundaries that fit your values. Stand strong. The kids will resist. But it is time to re-define normal and re-set the boundaries in your home.
READ THIS IF YOU HAVE LITTLES
Parents of little ones are not getting a break from parenting. It is little ones, sun up (or before) to sundown (or after). You have lost your extended family connections and external supports such as daycare, and you and the kids are feeling this. Think about using technology to help foster the connection, and hopefully give you a break. Have grandma read a book or tell a story on facetime, do regular activities over facetime that your kids enjoy…baking, colouring and crafting. ASK. FOR. HELP. Don’t be a hero. Ask those who you love for some facetime or an ear. Talk about what you are feeling. Share these thoughts with your support system. But try not to focus on the negative too much. Tell friends and family about the funny stuff the kids did, and listen to their stories as well. We know this isn’t much. We know this isn’t the level of connection you have enjoyed. But we have to focus on re-defining our expectations.
Talk to your spouse, or even text when you have a free minute, as you might not get a good chunk of time to hash out this heavy stuff. Even little tidbits of info will help you develop a better understanding of your values as a couple, the discrepancies you may note from your families of origin and then develop a value system that is right for YOUR family.
Time for a reminder here. What we are all being asked to do right now is REALLY, REALLY HARD.
What is the hardest thing about communicating with your kids?Learn More
Take some time to think about the vision you have for your family. Think back to when you looked at your sweet, delicate infants for the first time. I am sure you had dreams for your babies from day one. You jumped ahead to the distant future, picturing them as an astronaut, a physician or a judge. However, once reality kicked in, you knew that you needed to examine your family values and think about how you were going to instill the good habits, self-discipline and other characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity and kindness into that little human.
Then, the small person started to develop a mind of their own. You worked hard all day and had to dig deep to be consistent with applying the rules and guidelines you put in place in order to teach and instill those values. Your little human went to school, and then learned that there were plenty of people out there who did not share the same values, which set up a whole new set of obstacles for raising that well-rounded, self-disciplined, kind and caring human. Oh yeah, then they discovered the internet…
Fast forward to today. We are settling into a new lifestyle. Our world has slowed down, and we are limiting our contacts. Opportunities to re-acquaint ourselves with our families abound. Let’s talk tips for pressing the re-set button in your family and using this time to build strength.
Instructions: Take a half-hour at the dining room table to place these values in the “Absolute, not-up-for-discussion” pile, the “Nice to have, but not on top of the heap”, and finally the “Nice, but not important to us pile”. Next, review the piles, make sure your absolutes are clear and then pick your top ten and rank them. Those, my friends, are your family values.
P.S. If you really want to have fun, have everyone do their list independently and then reconvene to see what you came up with, and THEN figure out your top ten. This may take awhile…however consensus building helps foster co-operation, respect and the ability to agree to disagree.
Once you have your values secure, keep them on the fridge or in a central location. Littles or the more creative among you can create a poster using colour and images. You can frame it and everyone will commit to look at it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
How did you do? Did you learn anything about your family and the values that you hold individually and collectively?Learn More
So here we are, settling into Covid Family Life. This is a time marked with uncertainty as to where this is going, and for how long. Most of us have experienced the roller coaster of emotions associated with this experience. From shock, to sadness, depression, anxiety and back through again. Hopefully, you are moving into accepting this situation for what it is today, and are now thinking about how you are wanting to travel through it as a family.
Ironically, as difficult as this time is to endure, many people have enjoyed the slowed pace and the ability to really enjoy each other, and think about putting some family habits and systems in place that we have lagged on a little. You can do this too! But you need to follow the first guiding rules:
- NOBODY, NO FAMILY, NO PARENT is perfect
- Be forgiving of yourself and each and every member of the family as they adjust to these times and struggle to manage emotions
- Be patient. Change takes time.
Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to provide some tips for helping and even improving your family dynamic during our social (read physical) distancing. We are hoping that this will be a virtual family therapy of sorts. You don’t have to be dysfunctional, riddled with conflict or in crisis to need family therapy! In fact, it is our belief that every family could benefit from using these tips to open conversation and foster connection.
Share some of the biggest challenges you have experienced as a family since the Covid situation began.Learn More
I am often asked by people what is the best therapy “advice” that I have ever given. It may appear that answering this question would be difficult because I see a wide variety of individuals who come to me with a wide variety of reasons for seeking therapy. However, the question is not a difficult one for me to answer at all. The reason is because I generally don’t give advice!
Let me explain. Think about a time when you were confused, overwhelmed and in emotional pain. Quite likely, you sought the advice of a close friend or family member whom you trusted. You told your story, you cried or yelled, you got a supportive hug and then waited for your support person to tell you what to do to “solve” the problem. You then took their advice, felt 100% better and moved on with your life? Right? I highly doubt it! Even if your support person offered advice, you likely met that advice with a “yeah…but” reason for not taking it (that is if you didn’t just meet it with an outright “NO!, I can’t do that!”). Or, maybe you can think of a time that you took someone’s (well-intentioned) advice quite literally. What happened? Were you thrilled with the results? Did following the advice seem inauthentic? Did the following through with the advice lead to further problems?
Quite likely, you have seen one or more of these scenarios play out. Your plan to seek advice and support from your family or friend can sometimes lead to you feeing more frustrated, confused, judged and upset than before you started! The reason for this, is that in order for us to solve the dilemmas that face us, we need to come up with the solution ourselves. We need to create a “buy in” to our solutions. Although friends and family can offer support, their well-intentioned offers of advice are based on a variety of factors: their morals and values, their personal experiences, their biases (toward you or the other party in your conflict), among other things. Taking advice can often lead to more confusion and a lack of a “buy in” to the solution as we didn’t come up with it ourselves!
This does not mean that seeking the support of friends and family is a bad idea! Quite the contrary! We all need support to hear our stories, dry our tears and give us hugs. In fact, quite frequently, the simple act of telling our story to someone else can produce clarity that letting our problem run “the internal loop” between our heads and hearts cannot.
However, time and again, I have people confirm for me that seeking therapy allows them to tell their story to a “neutral, third party” who is only privy to their perspective. A good therapeutic relationship can help you “re-focus the lens” through which you are viewing the problem. Talking about your issues and feelings can help you gain insight and start to see things differently and with clarity. The good news is that the therapeutic relationship supports you in this, but ultimately, the change in perspective is yours, and yours alone.
Now the cynic within you may say, “YES! That’s precisely the problem with therapy…the therapist only hears one side of the story!”. My answer to this is a resounding “YES! You’re right!” However, a skilled therapist is trained to listen, ask questions skillfully and support the individual in reflecting upon their situation. These questions and reflections have the effect of encouraging the client to see their troubles from a different point of view, and sometimes, even cause a shift in perspective about the problem or their relationships with others who are involved with the problem. It is hoped that this shift in perspective can open up dialogue and help the person move toward solutions.
That is why therapy does not include advice-giving. If the purpose of therapy is to increase perspective, reduce discomfort and move toward solutions, then individuals who seek therapy with these goals in mind are sure to work through their issues and ease their discomfort.Learn More
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.