The 5 Stages of Change

Updated: Sep 1, 2019

Change is a gradual process. For that reason, scientists and psychologists have broken it down into 5 different stages. Each stage of change summons different clinical skills from medical providers. It is important medical professionals learn these 5 stages so that they can better serve their patients.


1. Pre-contemplation

At this point the patient has no intention of changing. Sometimes they are even unaware of the need to change. The best thing to do during this stage is promote self-awareness. Talk about the risks of unhealthy habits, and the benefits of lifestyle change.


2. Contemplation

The patient is aware of a need to change. Furthermore, they have expressed interest in changing within the next 6 months. During this stage its best to resolve ambivalence. Talk through all the mixed feelings about change that the patient might have. Explore the pros and cons of the treatment plan with the patient as well. Assess their knowledge about the treatment plan.


3. Preparation

This is the stage where the patient is open and willing to change in the next 30 days. This is the point where goals should be clear, and commitments should be made. If patients sign up for a structured weight-loss plan, it is likely to be in the preparation stage of change.


4. Action

The action stage is the first sign of true commitment to a goal. This is where treatment plans are followed, and change takes place. The post important thing you can do for patients during this phase is provide tailored self-help materials. Meaning you must listen to your patients needs and struggles in order to recommend the most helpful resources. On top of sharing resources, providing encouragement to patients is just as important. Remind them that they are only a couple healthy habits away from a completely different lifestyle.


5. Maintenance

Once the patient has successfully participated in their treatment plan for over 6 months they have entered the “maintenance” stage of change. They are now in the swing of things as they have maintained their commitment for an extended period. The best thing to do during this stage is continuing to provide positive reinforcement.

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