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6 Successful Stages of Change

If you are reading this, you likely have something or things you would like to change about yourself or your life. Good for you! I am also actively trying to make changes within myself. As I tell my clients, I believe every human should always be working on some aspect of ourselves that we want to change or improve upon. It could be a bad habit like nail biting or perhaps a behavior you’d like to alter such as smoking (which can also be considered a bad habit). Regardless of the specific change, we automatically cycle through various stages of change. This process happens at varying paces. At times, it can happen quickly while others take much longer. Changing a behavior like quitting smoking or losing weight may happen over a period of weeks or even months.

In 1977, James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente collaborated and created the Transtheoretical Model (TTM). The term “transtheoretical” refers to the use of several theories within the field of psychotherapy. It transcends a single theory in a sense. The model came about through studies of people quitting smoking. The outcome showed that people only quit when they were ready. Therefore, this model focuses entirely on decision-making and intentional change. This is a reliable model to use when gauging where a person is in the stages of change. I use it with clients that want to make specific behavioral changes that often involve what they refer to as “bad habits.” Below are the stages of change and some helpful information on each:

1. Precontemplation Stage

The first step in making a change is actually not a step. It is the basic state of mind before the decision has been made to make a change. This is called the precontemplation stage. It asserts that a person has no intention of changing in the near future. If you consider the example of a person trying to quit smoking, for some time that person smoked and had no plans to stop. They were not even yet contemplating change, hence, the Precontemplation Stage. Reluctance, rebelliousness, resignation, and rationale all contribute to a person’s thoughts and reasoning for not changing during this stage. During this period, people are more focused on why they don’t want to change (the cons) as opposed to why they do (the pros). 

2. Contemplation Stage

In this stage, a person is giving change some consideration. By definition, they are planning to make a change within 6 months, though I have personally worked with clients who remained in this stage longer. Without motivation, a person can remain in this stage for a while. In the Contemplation Stage, a person is beginning to consider the pros of making a change. Maybe the smoker is starting to get complaints from his family and friends and has read about the health risks associated with smoking. Though he may be ambivalent, he is starting to contemplate both the pros and cons of making a change.

3. Preparation Stage

After a person has gone through some precontemplation then contemplation, they begin to prepare for the change to occur. They have gathered evidence to support the need for change and have determined that their ambivalence is not an insurmountable barrier. During this stage, a person may start to take small steps and is beginning to believe in the pros for change more so than the cons.

4. Action Stage

During this period, the person is actually making changes and plans to continue with the change process. They may have changed unhealthy behaviors or acquired new behaviors. They now believe that the pros of change outweigh the cons. 

5. Maintenance Stage

Once a person has reached this stage, he or she has successfully made the change. The focus here is to maintain that change and prevent a relapse to one’s old behaviors. In addiction treatment, the person in this stage may attend 12-step meetings or counseling groups. The smoker has stopped smoking and perhaps plans to stay away from those smoking outside so he is not tempted.

6. Termination Stage

I do not usually refer to this stage when working with clients but it is technically the final stage. Many do remain in the Maintenance Stage indefinitely in order to keep the change in place. In addiction treatment, it is believed that a person maintaining sobriety should continue to remain in the prior stage (Maintenance) because they must actively maintain sobriety. 

While we don’t often stop and think about the Stages of Change, I’m guessing if you think about a change in your life, you may find this applicable. You might best relate this model to a past change you made. Maybe you lost weight or stopped drinking. When you think carefully about the process, you are likely able to recall some or all of these stages as they occurred naturally. If you are contemplating change, this is the right time to do it! You have read some information on the Stages of Change and may be able to gauge where you are in the process. Are you close to taking action? Have you just begun to consider the change? Or are you realizing as you read this that you are in the Precontemplation Stage of a change you perhaps need to make? I can help you with this process. Change isn’t easy without help. Being a co-pilot for someone who wants to change and helping them along the way is one of the main reasons I went into this field.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help you implement change in your life. I am seeing clients (both individuals and couples) by video and in person now at both our Blue Ash and Hyde Park offices. I have availability every day of the week except Sunday and see clients during the day and in the evenings. You can email me directly at or click here to schedule with any of our awesome therapists. In the meantime, best wishes on your journey of change!


About Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Cincinnati therapist and a Cincinnati Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.

Sam was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English


Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world.


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