The stages of change for recovery from addiction

By D&M Consultants

D&M Consultants understand that clients enter our program at different stages of ‘readiness’ to change. We recognise that most of our them will be mandated to attend. This is challenging as people may protest that as this is a forced intervention, how can a person be compelled to change? There is research evidence however, that suggests positive treatment outcomes for both voluntary and mandated clients (Snyder & Anderson, 2009). One reason for this is that change and being motivated to change is a process and the REFRAME YOUR LIFE program works with clients to build that motivation.

Researchers have discovered that behaviour change is not an event and that it occurs in stages (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982). The figure below illustrates the model of change and shows how the change process is not linear; it instead occurs in a spiral.

There are 6 stages of change

1 Precontemplation – Here the individual does not think that they have a problem. At this stage the person is not even thinking about change and has perhaps not considered the negative repercussions of their behaviour.

2. Contemplation – Here the individual may be considering the possibility of changing their drinking, drugging or other addictive behaviour and at the same time rejecting the idea of change. This is called ambivalence and is a normal part of the change process. Our goal here is to help clients to resolve their ambivalence and build their motivation for change.

3. Preparation – In this stage, the person is leaning toward change, seriously considering no longer engaging in the problem behaviour. Here we support clients to prepare and plan how they might quit or reduce their substance use.

4. Action – This is the stage where the individual is taking steps to no longer engage in the behaviour. Having the right support tools in place is paramount at this stage.

5. Relapse – When trying to change, it is very common that people will lapse, or relapse. At this stage we emphasise that the individual renews the processes of contemplation, preparation and action and not give up on their goal. Each lapse is a vital learning experiences that we validate as they are critical to ongoing recovery.

6. Maintenance –The individual identifies and uses strategies to prevent relapse and addresses other areas of their life that need care and attention. Learning self-care and cognitive tools is particularly valuable at this stage.

D&M Perspectives

A lot of people do not attempt to ‘recover’ because they are fearful of failure and can’t bear the shame of others being disappointed in them. We want to normalise these feelings. Any attempt at change is not necessarily permanent in the beginning of the change process.

Persistence is key.

We know all too well how difficult it is to take the first step. For us, it took many attempts and various professionals and interventions before we had finally had enough.

Our experience is that (despite entering and exiting the cycle of change many, many times) recovery is possible. We believe that anyone struggling with addiction is worthy of something better.

Changing without support is extremely challenging.

The REFRAME YOUR LIFE program offers targetted support and guidance through the stages of change. We work with the person struggling with addiction to build the intrinsic motivation needed to exit the cycle and develop resilience for recovery.

Contact us at D&M Consultancy for more information about our Addiction Services for individuals and families.


Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1982). Transtheoretical therapy: Toward a more integrative model of change. Psychotherapy, 19(3), 276-288.

Snyder, C. M. J., & Anderson, S. A. (2009). An examination of mandated versus voluntary referral as a determinant of clinical outcome [Article]. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 35(3), 278-292.

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