Stages of the Addiction Cycle of Change

Stages of the Addiction Cycle of Change

Many models exist when it comes to research studies conducted on addiction. However, one model that’s known for its accuracy in depicting addiction is the stages of change model.

In this article, we’ll take you through each step of the five stages of the change model, providing insights into each stage.


What are the Five Stages of the Addiction Cycle of Change?

The four stages of Change, developed by Prochaska, DiClemente, and Norcross in 1983, is a theory based on how an individual progresses in their journey towards addiction recovery.

This model was later revised in 1992 and began to be used in various healthcare settings to address a range of different behaviours. These stages include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action.

Each stage represents a different phase in an individual’s readiness and willingness to change. The model suggests that change is not linear but cyclical, acknowledging that for some people, relapsing is part of the process.


The Stages of the Addiction Cycle of Change

See below for information about each stage of the addiction cycle of change.

The Precontemplation Stage

The first stage is known as pre-contemplation, and it marks the beginning of the contemplation stages in the addiction cycle of the change model.

In this stage, individuals are not yet considering a change in normal life or are unaware of the need for change. They might be oblivious to the negative consequences of their behaviours or in denial about their drug or alcohol addiction.

This stage is characterised by resistance and a lack of motivation to alter behaviour, often due to a lack of information or insight into their condition. It’s not uncommon for individuals in the pre-contemplation stage to feel demoralised due to past failed attempts to change.

The role of therapists or support systems during this stage is incredibly important. They work to create awareness and gently guide the individual towards contemplating change, without direct confrontation.

This is achieved through techniques like motivational interviewing, which helps increase insight and awareness about the negative impacts of their behaviour and the potential benefits of change.

The Contemplation Stage

In the next phase, the contemplation stage, individuals become aware of the potential benefits of making a change but also recognise the difficulties and costs associated with this change. This stage is marked by ambivalence and uncertainty.

Individuals spend time thinking about the problem and the potential solutions but are not yet ready to commit to action. This is often due to fear, apprehension, or perhaps a greater need or lack of confidence in their ability to make the change successfully.

The key aspect of treatment facilities at this stage is the mental weighing of the pros and cons of changing behaviour. Interventions at this stage aim to tip the balance in favour of change by exploring possible consequences and resolving ambivalence.

Strategies like exploring the discrepancies between an individual’s goals and their current behaviour, and emphasising the positive outcomes of change are often employed. The goal is to help individuals move to the next stage, where they are ready to make a plan and prepare for the change.

The Preparation Stage

The preparation stage is the termination stage, where the transition from considering change to beginning to plan for change occurs.

Individuals in this stage accept that change is necessary and start to experiment with small changes or gather information about what changes they need to make and how to go about it.

This stage involves more concrete decision-making, such as setting specific goals and timelines. The individual might start taking small steps toward change, such as joining a support group, seeking therapy, or making other small modifications to their behaviour.

In other words, the success of the person engaging in this stage lays the groundwork for the actual action. Support and guidance are important here to help the individual develop a realistic and effective action plan.

This could include identifying potential obstacles, finding resources, and building a support system that can help in the journey towards complete life change.

The Action Stage

The action stage is when individuals actively implement the changes they planned in the preparation stage. Visible, significant changes in behaviour characterise this stage of addiction treatment.

For those dealing with drug abuse or addiction, this might involve abstaining from the addictive substance or behaviour, arranging treatment at a rehab clinic, attending therapy sessions, or employing coping strategies learned during therapy.

The action stage requires a considerable amount of commitment and effort. It’s known to be the most challenging phase, as it involves breaking old habits and developing new ones. During the early phases of the action stage, support from therapists, support groups, and loved ones is helpful with maintaining motivation and overcoming any obstacles.

The Maintenance Stage

In the maintenance stage, individuals consolidate the gains achieved during the action stage and work on alternative strategies to sustain these changes over the long term. This stage is about preventing relapse and maintaining the new behaviour.

In order to maintain sobriety, it’ll involve a continued commitment to the new way of living life, and strategies to avoid falling back into old habits. Individuals may continue to use support systems and coping strategies to deal with potential stressors or triggers.

The focus is on reinforcing the positive changes and integrating them into everyday life. The maintenance stage is ongoing and can last indefinitely.

It’s a period where the individual learns to live a new, healthier lifestyle and gains confidence in their ability to maintain these changes. Relapse is still a possibility, but in more than one stage, with each passing day in maintenance, the individual becomes more experienced at managing their behaviour and sustaining change.


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