Lasting Change

“Change is a process, not an event.” 
~James Prochaska


Readiness for Change

Lasting personal change, changes in lifestyle habits and practices, is the secret to ongoing improved wellness in every important area of our lives: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Lasting personal change is an achievable goal. By carefully assessing what areas of our lives need the most work (click here for a free wellness assessment), identifying how ready we are to take direct action towards making significant lifestyle changes (see "Changing for Good" below), and then following through by taking those action steps that will help us achieve our goals (see "Processes of Change" below), we can make the positive behavioral adjustments that may radically alter our well-being.

(The following is adapted from Dr. Michael Arloski’s summary of the work of Dr.’s J. Prochaska, J. Norcross and C. DiClemente.)

Changing for Good (Prochaska’s, et al, Stages of Change)

1. Precontemplation - no thought of changing, now or later. Others who care about us may repeatedly urge us to take action on our problem but at this stage, we are deaf to their pleas.

2. Contemplation - thinking about changing, about why one follows the bad habit, what its payoff is. Bring both the rational mind and the emotions into play to move yourself to a commitment to change.

3. Preparation - remove temptations, plan how action will be taken, arrange support and understanding from family, friends, perhaps a support group. Arrange substitutes for the missed habit or activity or substance. Beware of substituting a new problem (over-eating, over-spending) for the old.

4. Action - the stage most of us picture, actual practice of the new way of being.

5. Maintenance - Prochaska shows that many people benefit from learning the difference between a lapse and a total relapse, (a complete collapse back into the old way). Being prepared to recognize a lapse and take immediate action can save the effort.

(Recycling - back to one of the previous stages) Changing for Good shows that it is entirely possible for a person to fail at one stage or another, only to make a second or subsequent attempts that succeed.

6. Termination - depending on the desired change and the person, total termination of the problem behavior may not occur. Instead, there may be a lifetime of careful maintenance. In other cases, the problem is conquered and temptation to renew the poor behavior ceases. The authors state that confidence that one has really succeeded peaks after a year but that temptation continues for two or three years.

Processes of Change

1. Consciousness-raising

a. Increasing levels of awareness

b. Increasing levels of information

2. Social Liberation

a. New alternatives provided by external environment

b. Physical (non-smoking areas, better menus)

c. Organizational/social (advocacy groups)

3. Emotional Arousal

a. Dramatic release

b. Catharsis

c. From real-life events (relative with new cancer diagnosis asks you to quit smoking)

d. From therapeutic process

e. From external stimuli such as films, etc.

4. Self-Reevaluation

a. Thoughtful and emotional reappraisal

b. Future self imagined

c. Examination of values conflicts

5. Commitment

a. Acknowledgment of self-responsibility

b. Private commitment

c. Coach/Therapist commitment

d. Public commitment

6. Countering

a. Substituting healthy responses for unhealthy ones

b. Counterconditioning

c. Example: call a friend instead of isolating and becoming depressed

7. Environmental Control

a. Restructure environment for external change support

b. Reduce probability of problem-causing event to occur

8. Reward

a. Reinforcement of healthy behavior

b. Self-praise

c. Presents to self

d. Incentives (external, e.g. company prizes)

9. Helping Relationships

a. Enlisting or eliciting the support of others

b. Alliances – informal – friends, family

c. Alliances – formal – coach, therapist, clergy, etc.

See Changing for Good (1992) J. Prochaska, J. Norcross and C. DiClemente. New York. William Morrow and Co. Inc.



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