Contemplation Stage of Change: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

In this lesson, identify major components from DiClemente and Prochaska's model of change, focusing on the contemplation stage. Understand how this stage of change works in a therapeutic setting by reviewing different examples that highlight this important transition when beginning to consider making changes.

The History of the Model of Change

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska introduced a model of change that helped addiction professionals understand their clients' behaviors and how they began to make changes throughout their lives. These six stages of change include precontemplation, contemplation, determination, action, maintenance, and termination, all focusing on how individuals were motivated while bringing change into their lives. Both addiction and mental health professionals were able to use this model of change to help gauge treatment plans on how their clients can change while educating them on the processes that are involved.

The stages of change model was first designed for alcohol addiction professionals to use with their clients

The Model of Change in a Nutshell

DiClemente and Prochaska's model of change can be cyclical in nature, with individuals not being able to progress from one stage to the other, until the previous one has been completed. It is important to note that there are no set time limits that an individual will stay in each stage of change, as the cycle can be personal, dependent on one's motivation levels. Before discussing the contemplation level of change, it is important to know what each stage of the model consists of, in order to gain a broader understanding of how the contemplation level can work in your life.

Precontemplation. The first stage of the model is that of the precontemplation stage. This is where individuals are not even thinking about changing a behavior or habit. They do not know that change is needed and have no desire to make any changes.

Contemplation. The contemplation stage is where individuals start to ponder about making a possible change. In essence, they are sitting on the fence thinking about change, yet make no commitment to do so.

Determination. This stage of the model is where individuals will make a commitment to change; that is, begin planning on how the change is going to take place. It is through this stage that individuals make a realistic plan for this change and how they will achieve their commitment to change.

Action. The action stage is where the individual starts to change their behavior or habit. It is important to note that within this stage, changes are happening, and typically one will remain this stage for a minimum of six months in order to say that the changes have been successful.

Maintenance. This stage of the model concentrates on building a new pattern of behavior over time. In the maintenance stage, individuals have to maintain the new behavior that they have placed into action over a period of time, to ensure that changes have been made. It is at this stage that individuals should have skills that will help prevent them from relapsing back into old and unhealthy behaviors.

Termination. The final stage of the change model includes that of the termination stage. This stage will allow the individual to cope with new and healthy behaviors without fear of relapsing back into old patterns and habits. When the individual reaches this final stage of the change model, they can then truly say that they have changed.

The Contemplation Stage

The contemplation stage of the model is one of the most important as it is where an individual begins to think about making some changes. Because the change model is typically used in alcohol/drug treatment and mental health counseling, a professional counselor can discuss any feelings of ambivalence with their client. This is the stage where the counselor will help bring awareness into their client's lives by discussing consequences of the behavior or habit that they need to change. Discussing how unhealthy behaviors and habits can affect their personal values can also bring insight into a client's life, enhancing the need and importance of change.

During the contemplation stage, because the client is sitting on the fence regarding making a change, it is up to the counselor to help push them to the side of the fence where change would be beneficial in their life. This occurs through the use of the change model, with the client staying in charge of their treatment, utilizing self-motivational statements, understanding the pros and cons of change, as well as how this can positively impact their treatment. It is through these understandings that the client is now contemplating change and can then move into the next stage.

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