stages of addiction recovery

6 Stages of Change in Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a unique disease. While it’s not a curable condition, addiction is treatable. Those who suffer from chemical dependency can overcome most of the effects of addiction to live a normal, healthy life. 

To help treatment providers and therapists to better help patients suffering from addiction, alcoholism researchers Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska developed their stages of change in addiction recovery, which was a model that illuminated some of the underlying processes of addiction to help addicts overcome their harmful, habitual behaviors.

These stages of change could be applied to a range of behaviors, from sex addiction to overeating and smoking to alcoholism. More specifically, the six stages of change can be used to indicate an individual’s readiness or current capacity to change.

Stage 1: Pre-Contemplation

In the pre-contemplation stage, individuals are not yet considering any changes to their behavior. In fact, they may even doubt whether any of their behaviors are problematic, believing instead that others are exaggerating or that they have no problem behaviors at all. DiClemente believed that there are four reasons to be or remain in the pre-contemplation stage: (1) being reluctant to change or become aware of one’s problem, (2) resisting being told what to do or how to behave, (3) feeling overwhelmed by the problem and have given up hope that one can change, or (4) because they are rationalizing the behavior.

Stage 2: Contemplation

When an individual has reached the stage of contemplation, he or she is willing to consider the possibility that he or she suffers from a problematic behavior. Although this does not equate to actually admitting that the behavior is problematic, there’s hope for change in the realization that the behavior could be problematic. Unfortunately, individuals in the contemplation stage are often very ambivalent; they’re willing to consider that a behavior is a problem, but their ambivalence prevents them from being decisive one way or the other. Many times such individuals will be willing to learn more about the problematic behavior as well its treatment, but when they weigh the pros and cons of a behavior or the pros and cons of change, both sides are often balanced. If previous attempts at change were made and met with failure, this can be a major reason for an individual’s ambivalence.

Stage 3: Preparation

The third stage — preparation, or sometimes referred to as determination — is when a decision or commitment to change has been made and the actual change is planned to occur or begin in the very immediate future. When an individual is in the preparation stage, they are bracing themselves for an impending change by planning for it, ensuring that it occurs smoothly and successfully. Individuals in the preparation stage benefit from discussions about identifying and overcoming obstacles, identifying individuals who are in their support networks, and can benefit from talking themselves through the impending change. In this stage, planning and preparation serve to reinforce the reality of an upcoming behavioral change, making individuals feel better, more confident, and more certain about it.

Stage 4: Action

As its name would suggest, the action stage is when an individual puts the plan for behavioral change into motion. In effect, the action stage indicates that the behavioral change is actually in progress. Depending on what the behavioral change is, the action stage can last a varying amount of time, but most often occurs between three and six months. During this time, therapists and counselors should be reinforcing an individual’s ability to overcome potential obstacles by helping them to anticipate potential struggles. Additionally, they should concentrate on acknowledging the presence of their support system and focus on both the immediate and long-term benefits of the behavioral change.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Having been working on the behavioral change for six months, the individual transitions into the maintenance phase, which lasts for as long as the individual is able to sustain the behavioral change. When working with a therapist or counselor, an individual will often focus on the times of difficulty or temptation to revert to the old behavior with the counselor helping him or her find ways to make them less tempting or difficult. Additionally, there’s a focus on acknowledging and identifying the many benefits of the behavioral change as noticing how one has improved due to the change will help to continue reinforcing it.

Stage 6: Relapse

The sixth and final stage will only occur if an individual relapses, or reverts back to the previous behavior. In the case of alcoholism and drug addiction, the sixth step refers to when an individual who has achieved sobriety relapses on alcohol or drugs, reverting back to his or her substance abuse behavior. In such instances, the focus of treatment would be to identify what or how the relapse behavior was triggered in order to prevent future relapses. Additionally, there’s a focus on the benefits of the behavioral change as well as the negative effects that would result from reverting back to the former behavior.

We Can Help You Achieve Sobriety

The journey from active addiction to lasting recovery is different for every addict. Each individual who begins addiction treatment must determine his or her own recovery needs, finding the therapies that best address those needs. If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation and assessment with one of our recovery specialists, call Drug Treatment Center Finder at 1-855-619-8070 today. With one from free, you or your loved one can begin the journey back to a life of health, fulfillment, and lasting happiness.

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