Stages of Change…
Years ago researchers James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo Diclemente decided to look at behavior change from a new perspective. Instead of attempting to predict what would cause change, they looked instead at people who had successfully changed and delved into how they’d actually managed that.
Eventually they found that real change, not just substituting one parallel behavior for another (AA for drinking is the classic example of a non-change), followed a predictable 6 stage pattern:
Precontemplation refers to that time when we aren’t aware that change would even be desirable;
Contemplation occurs when we start to think about whether or not we might want to change. This stage, which we refer to as “contemplation hell” when it lasts forever, may also be brief. Still, many alcohol abusers think about changing for the rest of their lives but never move beyond thinking about it.
Preparation means doing the research on how you might actually institute a change. What help is available? What can you try? Who can you talk to?
Visiting our website and downloading materials and reading the Newsletter and calling to discuss your particular circumstances are all part of Preparation and, again, you can prepare forever just as you can contemplate forever.
Action refers to actually doing something based on whatever you have learned through Preparation. That includes deciding to commit to investing the time, effort, and money into beginning the change process. It’s spending the five days with us and developing and instituting an action plan to address and end the problem. It’s taking advantage of the 12 or more weeks of on-going support we offer.
Maintenance sets in after the first months of adopting, following, and adapting, your action plan. You’ve done the work, made the changes, enjoyed the results and now you need only guard against lapsing (NO, NOT “relapsing”!) back into old behavior patterns. That’s also known as “paying attention” to yourself and your activities and the new benefits you are enjoying as a result of leaving alcohol abuse behind.
Termination occurs when you no longer need to pay much attention – at least to alcohol. Old behaviors have been successfully moved into the “been there, done that” category in our past and we need no longer concern ourselves with them. Whether it’s drinking, drugs, smoking, or any other life diminishing behavior, they are history and of little interest or concern.
And us? We’re part of the Action and Maintenance stages and process. You will, and should, outgrow your need for us and our services.
You will have “recovered” and out-grown any need to be “in recovery” and have become an ex-drinker as others become ex-smokers or formerly obese, or……………………………, but you can fill in those blanks.
The next Stage in your progress from Preparation to Action?
And Where Have All the Good Memories Gone?
Our minds are wonderful winnowing machines that sort out all of the terrible memories that support whatever black moods we descend into – moods we often use to justify our drinking.
Of course when we’re in a good mood we rarely need to recall good memories to support that mood, we just enjoy the emotions in the current moment and give little thought to enhancing them
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the premise that we create and manage our own emotions. What we think – the Cognitive – plus what we do – the Behavioral – create what we feel. Ergo, we are not “driven by our emotions” though we may create emotions in order to justify whatever it is we want to do.
That isn’t actually as complicated as it seems at first, but it does take practice to begin to manage your emotions and this is a significant part of what we help you to learn over the weeks you work with us.
One short exercise we always recommend is that you take the time to retrieve some favorite memories and practice enjoying them.
Because we have found that it’s possible to interrupt our descent into black moods if we interrupt the process by consciously shifting your attention to good memories.
Of course we don’t have much practice at doing that so we need to make a conscious effort to bring up and polish these good memories so that they are readily available to us when we need them.
Not only will you spend less time “down in the dumps” but you will also alter the general tone of your day to day life. You will also feel stronger when you discover that your emotions are no match for your thoughts and actions.
Guess what. You aren’t powerless – far from it.