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Motivation for Recovery: Moving Through the 5 Stages of Change

Why do some people find recovery and others don’t? There are many circumstances that motivate people to admit that their drug and alcohol use has become a problem and then find the willingness to seek help. For some, however, even in the face of dire consequences, there is a tendency to remain in denial about the magnitude of their addiction. Other people may become aware of a problem, but find it difficult to take the necessary steps to seek help and enter into recovery. Then, there are those who are able to identify the need for a change and are ready and able to take the necessary steps to find and maintain support.

In 1977, James Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente developed the Stages of Change model, which assesses an individual’s readiness to enter into recovery, and provides strategies, or processes of change that guide the individual into taking action. The Stages of Change model is useful in helping treatment professionals and family members better understand an addict’s motivation for recovery.

Stage One: Precontemplation

During the precontemplative stage of change, people are not considering a need for change and are therefore uninterested in seeking help. In this stage, the addicted person is likely to become defensive and rationalize drug and alcohol use. In working with an individual in the precontemplative stage, the recovery team assists the client in moving towards contemplation by helping them to adjust their locus of control (i.e. becoming more aware of the actual consequences of their addiction). The treatment team will also use motivational interviewing techniques to help the client consider the possibility for a change.

Stage Two: Contemplation

In the contemplative stage, people are aware of the personal consequences of their addiction and spend time thinking about their problem. In this stage, the addicted person may be open to some discussion about the consequences of their addiction; however, they remain ambivalent about making a change. In the contemplative stage, the treatment team will help the client weigh the benefits and costs of seeking help and will continue using motivational interviewing techniques to assist the client in imagining new options for their life and potential steps to break free from active addiction.

Stage Three: Preparation

During the preparation stage, people have made a commitment to make a change. Often times, clients will unconsciously attempt to skip this stage and enter directly into taking action; however, it is important that the treatment team supports the client in adequately preparing to take action. During this stage, counselors will empower the client to gather information about potential options for change, looking at recovery supports that meet their personal interests. In a holistic treatment approach, as found at Journey Pure, the treatment team will continue supporting the preparation stage of change once the client enters treatment—developing a personalized treatment plan for each client that best fits his or her individual needs.

Stage Four: Action

In the action stage, people believe they have the ability to change and are actively involved in taking steps in recovery. This is the stage where the education, coping strategies, and interpersonal communication skills offered in treatment help to bolster the client’s personal recovery. The client dives deep into assignments, personal inventories, and relapse prevention work to ensure a successful transition out of treatment and into recovery.

Stage Five: Maintenance/Recovery

In the maintenance stage, the client learns to successfully avoid triggers and other temptations that would lead back to active addiction. People in this stage tend to remind themselves of their progress and build community supports that reinforce their recovery goals. In order to ensure ongoing recovery, a competent treatment team will assist the client in case management, helping the client to gather essential resources and supports prior to leaving the facility.

Supporting our loved ones in recovery can often feel overwhelming and full of conflicting emotions. By understanding what motivates clients to change, treatment professionals can work more effectively to develop individualized treatment plans that encourage healthy progress towards recovery. Once in treatment, individuals begin to develop the tools and resources to ensure ongoing support and maintain recovery as they transition back into their day-to-day lives.