The 6 Stages of Change

The 6 Stages of Change

Alright Reframer, you know we love a good theoretical model around here, don’t we? They’re typically pretty digestible and easy to apply to our lives, and the Transtheoretical Model of Change is no different. Today let’s take a look at the 6-stage model that explains how and why we change behavior over time. As we look to build new, adaptive behaviors, this model can provide us extensive insight.


The 6 Stages of Change are:

  1. Precontemplation: before recognizing the need for change

  2. Contemplation: considering the need for change

  3. Preparation: making small changes

  4. Action: consistent changes being implemented

  5. Maintenance: a prolonged period of the desired change performed

  6. Termination: the undesired original behavior is no longer part of the person’s life


In the context of using alcohol, this might look like:

  1. Precontemplation: Drinking alcohol at maladaptive levels with no insight or desire to change

  2. Contemplation: Becoming “sober curious” or considering cutting back

  3. Preparation: Trying alcohol-free challenges, testing out alcohol-free beverages, reading “quit lit”

  4. Action: Actively working to change relationship with alcohol

  5. Maintenance: Prolonged abstinence or moderation at the desired level of consumption

  6. Termination: When “not drinking” or moderation becomes the default


When we look at this model, we may notice that it’s progressive; we’re not really able to skip any one stage before we reach the next, and the stages slowly decrease in resistance and increase in willingness to change as they progress. We eventually begin to see the benefits of change over the negatives of change. Eventually, “not drinking” (or drinking less) brings so much benefit to our lives that it becomes second nature. This is when it becomes fun.


It’s also worth noting that the earlier stages, especially Precontemplation, Contemplation, and Preparation, might be cyclical for a while—because they’re high-resistance stages still, we may find ourselves falling back into Contemplation or Precontemplation a few times before it starts to “stick.” Alcohol is especially good at making us do this because of the physically addictive properties.


To be certain, there’s no clear cut progression here: we can’t tell you that you’ll be at the Termination stage in one year or five years or twenty years. Our experiences with alcohol are incredibly personal, depend heavily on our consumption and body chemistry, and are an often evolving process. But we do see this general trend, over and over.


While there are many factors that influence our progression through these stages of change, one of the most important factors is the concept of “self-efficacy,” or our belief in our ability to change. This is why self-efficacy is one of the pillars of our program here at Reframe; as Henry Ford famously said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.”


Today, consider how you can strengthen your self-efficacy, and therefore move through the 6 Stages of Change more smoothly. What actionable steps can you take to affirm your ability to change to the most important person… yourself?

Sutton, J. (2020, November 12). The 6 Stages of Change: Worksheets For Helping Your Clients. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/stages-of-change-worksheets/.