The Stages of Change and Their Importance in Recovery

The Stages of Change (also known by the term Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change) assess how ready someone is to act on a new healthier behavior, or to work towards recovery.  This model also provides strategies, or processes of change to guide them through the stages of change to Action and Maintenance.   Read further to understand each stage of change and how it is related to eating disorder and addiction recovery.


This stage can also be defined as “not ready”.  When in this stage of change, people are not ready to start working toward changing behaviors and do not realize the need for change.  In this stage, people are encouraged to start learning about healthy behaviors and consequences of their current behaviors.  Through motivational interviewing and other therapeutic techniques, someone in this stage of change would be encouraged to start weighing the pros and cons of taking steps toward changing their behaviors.


This stage can also be defined as “getting ready”.  At this point, people are starting to consider making changes.  They have an intention to start making changes in the near future.  They have started to weigh the pros and cons of behavior changes and a healthier lifestyle, although usually at this point the cons still outweigh the pros for them.


This stage can also be defined as “ready”.  People in this stage are ready to start taking action very soon towards changing their behaviors.  They are making a plan for how they will change their behaviors and may be telling others about their plans.  When someone has reached this level of change, a support system is crucial.  Someone in this stage of change is most concerned about failure – having a support system can make failure seem less scary and less possible.


During this stage, the person is making changes and working towards recovery and a healthier lifestyle.  They are actively involved in their recovery.  They have stopped destructive behaviors.  It is important that during this stage, people learn how to strengthen their commitment and fight urges to slip back into old habits.


The Maintenance stage of change occurs when people have continued through the action stage of changing their behaviors for an extended period of time.  They may have less urges to slip back into their old habits and have strengthened their commitment to change further.  It is important that during this stage of change they continue to seek help from their support system to avoid relapse/recycle.

Relapse and Recycle

For most people in recovery, relapse is inevitable.  It is going to happen.  Relapse or Recycle happens for almost anyone trying to make a change, whether it is quitting drugs or alcohol, or recovering from an eating disorder, or even trying to exercise more after a heart attack.  It is important to know that it is okay to “recycle” through the stages of change again after relapse.  Relapse is not equal to failure.


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