Inspiring Thoughts from EAC

Understanding the 5 Stages of Change to Help Break Unhealthy Habits

By: Steve Gainey, MA, LLP, ADS, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist – Habits can be very difficult to break, especially destructive habits! For many of us, making positive changes and breaking unhealthy habits can create a continuous problem and often, we find ourselves repeating the same self-defeating patterns and behaviors. Some of us may find our unhealthy habits keep us in toxic or stagnant personal or work relationships.  Others find those habits may lead to substance abuse, poor eating, difficult sleeping, excessive gambling, and/or overuse of screen time (including TV, video games, social media, etc.).

In working with individuals who are looking to make a change in their lives or break a habit, I often recommend exploring the 5 stages of change and their characteristics as a tool to bring about positive change.

The Transtheoretical Model (also referred to as the Stages of Change Model) was developed in the late 1970’s by researchers, James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente.  The model was based on a smoking cessation study and has been used for many years in mental health and substance abuse treatment to assist clients in making healthy changes.

The model identifies 5 stages of change:  pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Each stage has the following characteristics:


  • No intent to change.
  • Behavior viewed as a pro, not con.


  • Some thought of behavior as a problem.
  • Seeking info about the problem.
  • Uncertain and ambivalent
  • Not prepared to change.


  • Ready to make a plan to change behavior.
  • May have already begun self-regulation.


  • Behavior is changing.
  • Figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
  • Modifying plan.


  • Sustaining changes of the plan.

I encourage you to take some time to examine and reflect on the stages of change to discover how you may use them to create positive changes in your life.

Additionally, I recommend reading this poem that I have shared for many years with my clients as a reminder to keep trying until you achieve your desired result. Check it out (maybe even print it) and refer to it when you are going through a change.

For additional assistance in working through stages of change (or for any other life issue), reach out to EAC.  We’re here to help!

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