As a therapist I have always found watching how people make change fascinating.  It is often hard to predict when a person is going to make a change. However, James O Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed a model which explains how people make changes. The developed this model when studying people that quit smoking.

They believe that there are six stages of change.

  1. Precontemplation: The person is not ready for change and may be in denial that there is a problem.
  2. Contemplation: People intend to make a change within 6 months.  However there is still some ambivalence and the pros and cons of making the change may be even.
  3. Preparation: The person is ready to act within the next 30 days.  They may be taking some initial steps towards making the change.
  4. Action: The person has made the change within the last 6 months and is working hard to keep the change
  5. Maintenance: The change has been made for more than 6 months and the person is stable with the new behavior
  6. Relapse: The change was made but there was a relapse back to the prior behavior.  Relapse is considered part of the cycle of change since more people relapse than do not.

This model is not considered linear model but instead circular.  If a person relapses they might go back to precontemplation or they might jump right back into action.  It is important to remember that every person works through change at their own pace and it is important to support them rather than judge them wherever they might be.