Change: A Clinical Definition

“There’s a difference between wanting to change because you hate yourself & wanting to change because you love yourself.” – Anonymous

According to psychology, there are 6 steps to change. These steps will help make change a less arduous process and open you up to possible new behaviors and habits that are currently holding you back. Please remember, it is normal & natural to regress, to attain one stage only to fall back to a previous stage. “No one can force a person to change their behavior, lifestyle, mentality, attitude, etc. The individual must be ready for change” – Psychology.tools

The first step is precontemplation. Here you have not yet acknowledged that there is a problem. At this point, you are in denial and will defend your current bad habit or behavior. You have no intention of changing this habit or behavior because you do not see a problem.

The second step is contemplation. Here you are acknowledging that there is a problem but you don’t know if you want or are ready to change. You are aware that a problem exists with your current behavior or habit, however you are ambivalent and have no commitment to making a change. You do spend time thinking about the problem, trying to determine if change is needed.

The third step is preparation or determination. You are getting ready to change and have an intention to take action. This is also known as the research phase because you are gathering information on how to make the needed change. This step is often skipped and leads the person to fail at their initial attempt to change because they haven’t accepted that it will be a change that will affect their lifestyle.

The four step is action. This involves the willpower to actively modify the behavior or habit. You have to have a belief in your ability to change and be actively involved by using different techniques and putting effort into the change. It is in the phase that people are at the greatest risk for relapse however they are also more open to receiving help and support from others.

The fifth step involves maintenance. Here you have to avoid temptations to return to bad habits and you have to maintain the behavior or habit change. You need to remain aware of the situation, be patient with yourself and remain on track. By sustaining the change, the new habit or behavior will replace the old.

The sixth step is relapse. This is included because it is considered normal to experience at least one relapse in the course of the change. In a relapse, you return to the old behaviors or habits and abandon your changes by falling back into old patterns of behavior. Most importantly you have to remember that you didn’t fail. Instead look at your relapse as an opportunity for learning and becoming stronger. The process can be restarted again at any of the last three phases: Preparation, action or maintenance.

Eventually you will have maintained maintenance long enough to attain transcendence. Transcendence is when the former habit or behavior has now become atypical and abnormal. You will also be able to work with your emotions, view your behaviors in a new light and understand them.

Now that you know the steps to making changes? What is it you would like to change in your life? The following is a prompt to inspire change.

“Things I Want to Change”

  • Two things I want to change about myself…
  • Two things I like about myself and don’t want to change are…
  • The most important change I’ve made since __________ is…
  • A change that I’ve made since ____________ is …
  • If I try to change, I worry that…
  • A Change that I would like to make in myself but don’t think I can is…
  • The reason it is hard for me to change is…

Psychology Tools

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