I Want to Change. I Just Can’t (Readiness For Change)

We all seem to have times of our lives when we get stuck in that vicious cycle. We want to change. We need to change. We know what we need to do to change. We just don’t. Then we give up. Another frustrating situation is telling others to change and they won’t. This is very frustrating for parents who establish their child in counseling and couples in counseling, wonder why counseling is not effective.

The first step in change for ourselves and helping others make changes is knowing where we are starting. People often go backwards. They look at the finish line, but have no idea where they are starting. Knowing where you are at in the Stages of Change will give you a realistic look recognizing the work it is going to take to change.

When entering counseling it is important that your therapist identify where the client is at on the change continuum. There are five stages of change. Each stage has its own characteristics and strategies to facilitate success.

1. Precontemplation
2. Contemplation
3. Preparation
4. Action
5. Maintenance and Relapse

Precontemplation: This person is likely not even considering change. This happens a lot when parents or spouse insist that the child or other spouse attends counseling. Denial is common. If someone voluntarily seeks counseling for change, they believe they have tried everything thus far with no success. Counseling an apprehensive or unwilling client should focus on educating the person on the pros and cons to making change.

Contemplation: This client is ambivalent for change. There is a possibility that they will change. Assistance is usually needed to identify barriers and establish a support system.

Preparation: This is a therapist “dream client.” The person is prepared to experiment with small changes and open to alternative ideas. Realistic goals and timelines are set for change. Identifying rewards and positive reinforcements that could help keep this person motivated is explored.

Action: This person is ready to take off. They have identified the goal, set up objectives (steps to make it happen) and have identified the reward for making the change. Frequent positive reinforcement is important.

Maintenance and Relapse Prevention: This person strives on a daily basis to maintain new behavior over the long-term. A loved one will need to provide encouragement and support. You may have to resort to refresh them about the pros and cons of returning to the unwanted behavior.

Using this change continuum will help assess where you will start in counseling. If your child or spouse is at “precontemplation” it may be more beneficial for you to seek the assistance of the counselor to help you learn strategies to cope with their resistance. Movement through each of these stages are unique to each person. People can stay stuck in contemplation for months, even years, before they are ready for action.

The most important thing to remember…We can only change ourselves. If we want someone else to make the changes more than he/she wants to change, it often leads to frustration and disappointment.

At River Birch Counseling the therapists are ready to start where you are. We will help you identify where you are on the change continuum and make realistic goals to achieve success at any stage.