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What are the stages of change as a person goes through the recovery from chemical dependency?

We have all seen (or been) people who seem to be making no progress dealing with an addiction, and then suddenly there is a change. Is it all at once or in stages? Prochaska and DiClemente 1992 did extensive work in stages of change, and Prochaska still researches and speaks about this. It is essential to understand the stage, so the treatment can be tailored to the needs and thinking of that stage. Some of the stages seem invisible to the observer, but there is an internal change occurring.

Simply put, the stages of change are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and recurrence. No one wants the last one recurrence to happen, but we are dealing with the reality of the process here. Precontemplation is a stage where the addicted individual is not yet considering change, is unwilling and unable to make those changes, and in strong denial. In contemplation, a large step forward has occurred, with ambivalent and probably inconsistent acknowledgment that concerns exist. The next stage is preparation, where the addicted person is planning to change in the reasonably near future, but a good set of goals and plans are in progress. Notice that up to this point, it may appear that “nothing has happened ” externally. Internal recognition of what hasn’t worked is occurring. Action is perhaps the most visible stage in a positive way, in that the person is actively involved in taking the steps needed for change in the desired direction. In maintenance, work is done to maintain the recovery goal, but also multiple other friendship, lifestyle and spiritual factors which will maintain the healthy new state. Recurrence is possible, with either a recurrence of “dry drunk/stinking thinking” symptoms of mood and behavior, a lapse in terms of use, or a full fledged relapse into multiple addictive patterns. Recurrence can be managed, and turned into a learning experience with a positive outcome. Watch WYNK flash videos for more information about growth and change.


by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.



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