Thursday, August 23, 2012

stages of change

In case there’s any doubt as to how much of a nerd I really am, I will write about Prochaska’s stages of change.  It amazes me that I’ve not heard of it until recently, especially since people in my field are expected to be change agents for our organizations. 

Prochaska conceptualized change as a series of stages or phases that an individual cycles through until he or she maintains the change for six months.  Why is six months a magic number that defines permanence?   I didn’t research that but I don’t believe anything in this world is permanent.  In fact, I would argue that change is the only constant thing in this world.
Nevertheless, according to Raymond and Lusk (2006), the stages are briefly this:
·         precontemplation stage – no interest in changing
·         contemplation stage – considering change
·         preparation stage – planning change
·         action stage – enacting the behavior change
·         maintenance – behavior change maintained for six months
Norcross, Krebs, and Prochaska (2011) went into greater depth with their explanation of the method and how it applies to change agents.  Not only did they identify roles the change agent should take on for each stage, but also they explained that to be successful at changing an individual, it’s important to correctly assess which stage of change the individual is in and set realistic goals.  We are also to expect the individual to cycle through the stages a lot; it’s not going to be a top down thing.  Relapse happens. 
So, Norcross et al. define these rolls for each stage except maintenance, which requires nothing from the change agent:
·         precontemplative – agent acts as a nurturing parent
·         contemplative – agent acts as a Socratic teacher, encouraging the individual to gain personal insight into the problem or situation
·         preparation – agent acts as an experienced coach, provides a game plan, inspires individual with confidence
·         action – agent acts as a consultant and provides expert advice and support 
All this is good background for my current problem of persuading Gracie to walk nicely on her leash when we are out in public.  Does Prochaska’s change method apply to training a dog?  Right now, Gracie is in the precontemplative stage – she’s clueless.  As her change agent, I’ve already moved on to the preparation phase (even though my experience is minimal and I doubt my demeanor provides little inspiration to poor Gracie).  How can I know what her insights are?  I can’t really assess her, other than to see what happens when I put her on a leash.  Maybe the change method only applies to people who think they want to change, and that would explain why they don’t teach IT folks about it.  Much of the time, we have to force change on people who don’t really want to change. 
Norcross, J. C., Krebs, P. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2011). Stages of change.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 143-154. Retrieved from
Raymond, D. M., & Lusk, S. L. (2006). Staging workers’ use of hearing protection devices: Application of the transtheoretical model, AAOHN Journal, 54(4), 165-172. Retrieved from


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