Transtheoretical Model: Definition & Stages of Change

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  • 0:03 What's the…
  • 0:51 Stages of Change:…
  • 1:56 Contemplation & Preparation
  • 2:54 Action & Maintenance
  • 4:01 Stages of Change in…
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Did you know we go through different stages of change when breaking old habits and adopting new ones? Continue reading to learn more about these different stages and how it all relates to the transtheoretical model.

What Is the Transtheoretical Model?

Regular exercise can be hard to keep up with. This is especially the case for those individuals who have not exercised in a long time. How do we develop the habit of implementing daily exercise into our daily routines? What does it take to maintain this healthy habit?

More than 20 years ago, psychologists Carlo C. DiClemenete and J.O. Prochaska developed the transtheoretical model. This model is a theory used to describe the process of change from one behavior to a more beneficial one. A theory is an observation that is well supported and validated with scientific findings. Both psychologists developed this model as a way to understand how people modify behavioral problems such as alcoholism, smoking, and yes, even exercising.

Stages of Change: Pre-contemplation

Prochaska and DiClemente believed that a person goes through five different stages when addressing a behavioral issue. Let's take a look at each of the stages in more depth:

The first stage is called pre-contemplation. While in this stage people care less about changing a behavior. Not only are they not thinking about changing, but also some may not even see what they are doing (or not doing) as a problem.

DiClemente presented his reason as to why people are pre-contemplators. He called it the Four Rs:

  • Reluctance - Some people lack the knowledge needed to make a change. Others do not realize the impact associated with making a change.

  • Rebellion - These people are very resistant to making a change. They believe they are fully in control of their own decision making, regardless of the behavior.

  • Resignation - People at this stage may have attempted to make a change but resigned to defeat in the process.

  • Rationalization - this describes your know-it-alls. They can give you a million reasons as to why their behavior is wrong. But, they are simply not willing to take the leap and change.

Contemplation & Preparation

During the stage of contemplation, individuals are well aware that it is time to make a change. They may think about the behavioral issue a lot more but are on the fence as to whether they should commit to making a change. This stage takes more time as a person processes and comes to the realization that a change is needed. The benefit is that they are receptive towards receiving help or the information about their behavioral problem.

The next stage is called preparation, during which individuals are ready to commit to a change in their behavior. They are no longer in a stage of denial and are willing to take the steps necessary to correct their problem. As much as this is a stage about preparation, it's also a time of determination.

Now the individual must not only commit to change but also to taking the steps in a plan to correct the issue. Preparing for the change ensures the commitment remains strong. On average, the time it takes to process the act of planning is about one month.

Action & Maintenance

The next stage of change is called action. In this stage, individuals have enough willpower to take on the task of modifying their behavior. They're actively doing whatever it takes to make the change. This shortest of all stages, the process of taking action, can vary in time. Some people can take action in just one hour. Others need up to six months to effectively quit their old behavior or change it. This variation in time all depends on the strength of their willpower to make a change.

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