The Five Stages of Change model of behavior, originally developed in the 1970s to better understand how smokers might give up their addiction to cigarettes (Prochaska & DiClemente*), is based on the assumption that behavioral change does not take place in one step or at one time, but is rather a process involving progress through a series of distinct, predictable stages.
In recent decades, the Five Stages model has been used to assesses an individual’s readiness to act on any number of new and healthier behaviors, and to provide strategies to guide the individual through the stages of change.
1. Pre-contemplation (not ready)
The individual is not ready, nor intending, to take action (regarding a particular behavior or issue) in the foreseeable future, and is generally unaware that this behavior is problematic. Pessimistic about his ability to make change, or in denial regarding the negative effects of his existing lifestyle habits, he selectively filters information that helps confirm his decision not to make any changes.
2. Contemplation (getting ready)
The individual begins to recognize that his behavior is problematic, and start to weigh the pros and cons, the costs and benefits, of continuing or modifying his current lifestyle. Many will choose to stay in this contemplative stage for years.
3. Preparation (ready)
The individual intends to take action in the immediate future, and may begin taking small steps toward behavioral change or modification.
The individual takes specific and overt steps to modify a particular problematic behavior, to make a lifestyle change, or to acquire new, healthy behaviors (individuals in this stage are at the greatest risk of relapse).
The individual is able to sustain action for at least six months and works to prevent relapse; this is the stage of successful, sustained lifestyle modification.
* James O. Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island, Carlo Di Clemente and colleagues developed the transtheoretical model beginning in 1977. Because it is based on analysis and use of different theories of psychotherapy, the theory is referred to as the Transtheoretical Model (TTM).