What Are the Five Stages of Change?
The five stages of addiction recovery are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Read on to find out more about the various stages.
1. Precontemplation Stage
People who are in the first stage of addiction recovery aren’t yet ready for any addiction treatment program. This phase is characterized by defensiveness and endless justification of their behavior. There’s a clear lack of insight into the negative impact of excessive drug or alcohol use and a strong focus on the positive effects they experience from using their drug of choice.
Someone might remain in this stage due to a lack of information about addictive behaviors. Another reason we regularly see people get stuck in the precontemplation stage is disappointment with multiple failed attempts at recovery and treatment options. Most individuals in precontemplation feel that recovery simply isn’t possible for them. The truth is that anyone can recover from any stage.
2. Contemplation Stage
The next phase is characterized by contemplative readiness. This means the person is ready to bring about change in the future, but not immediately. Unlike the previous stage, they’re aware of the pros of becoming drug-free.
However, they are also still acutely aware of the benefits they perceive from alcohol or drug addiction. This is a critical stage for family members and treatment facilities because the person is more likely to listen to reason. By avoiding blame, judgment and accusations, it’s possible to guide them to the next stage.
3. Preparation Stage
When it comes to the preparation stage, the individual is building a sense of urgency regarding their desire for sobriety. They’ve usually made steps toward taking action, such as intending to join a gym, seeing a counselor or attempting to quit addiction by themselves without attending a treatment center.
It’s normal for people in this phase to go for a day or two without turning to drug or alcohol abuse, but it’s also perfectly usual to see people jump back to contemplation or precontemplation in case triggers or difficult emotions arise.
4. Action Stage
During the action stage, the person has made significant changes in their lives and is committed to change. This stage of change is characterized by prolonged periods of abstinence and the inclination to turn to professionals for help before or after relapse.
It won’t just be a case of halting the destructive behavior; change will be apparent in multiple aspects of their lifestyle. Self-care and self-understanding are both present in this treatment stage, but counseling is required to keep them on the right path.
5. Maintenance Stage
During the maintenance stage, the individual is working hard to prevent addiction recovery relapse. They’re also keeping up the lifestyle changes they made, like getting regular exercise, recreational activities, staying sober, paying attention to sleep hygiene and attending support groups. They don’t feel the urge to relapse as frequently as people in the action stage, so their confidence grows and they truly believe in their ability to maintain sobriety long term.
This stage can last from six months to five years, depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s genes and experience. It takes a small minority of people six months of abstinence to reach the point where they don’t go back to their addictive behavior. However, for most people, a commitment of two to five years is necessary to truly break the habit and solidify change.