Stages of Change: Contemplation

In a previous article, I talked about the ‘Stages of Change’ model that is used very often in mental health and addictions recovery. These five stages can be very helpful in determining where someone is within the process of a (usually) major change in their life. These stages are generally pretty accurate and I have seen them at work with many, many of my clients. In the first part of this series, I discussed stage one, which is ‘Pre-Contemplation’. To summarize, Pre-Contemplation is basically the ‘denial’ stage. There is no consideration of ‘change’ and therefore someone can become stuck in this stage for a long time. However, as is the natural process, inevitably people will transition to stage two: Contemplation. I will say a few words about this stage, with the hopes that perhaps you will relate to the thought process, types of decisions and difficulty of this ‘Stage of Change’.

Contemplating the change

The ‘Contemplation’ stage is truly the transitional phase. You have begun to accept that there is something in your life that may need to be changed in order for you to see increased happiness or wellness. During ‘Contemplation’ people often go through a process of weighing the costs versus the benefits of making the particular change. There are many scenarios here that will relate to our struggles with IBS. Go to the gym, not go to the gym. Try a new doctor, stay with the familiar. New diet? And so it goes… Generally, we are much more likely to make a change if we can see very clearly the benefit of making the change. I ask my clients to envision the best case scenario when considering a particular change. I will then ask them to think about the worst case scenario. Often, there really is no contest, because the changes in question are typically not the type that can’t be reversed (like plastic surgery or something). So why is it so difficult to make these changes? Because we cling to the familiar and at this point we generally don’t feel good. It’s hard making decisions of any kind when you are sick and tired. It’s hard to say, ‘yeah, let’s climb that hill’, when you really aren’t sure you want to. That’s why this stage is called ‘Contemplation’ and not ‘ACTION’ which is actually another step that comes later.

Change takes time

Like ‘Pre-Contemplation’, the ‘Contemplation’ stage can be very short or take a very long time depending on the change being considered, the individual deciding on the change, the physical and/or emotional state of said individual and a number of other factors. The point is that this is all a very natural aspect of making important changes in our lives. Change is hard. Being sick is hard. We just have to try to make those tough decisions and live with them. If we backslide, it’s ok. We just can’t become complacent and allow outside forces like IBS make our decisions for us. I will bring your attention to the next phase of change, ‘Preparation’, in a future article.

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