Stages of Change

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Stages of Change

Stages of Change

May 19, 2017

When it comes to addiction, making a change can be hard. However, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gamblings’ 888-ADMIT-IT Helpline is here for problem gamblers and their loved ones who are looking to make a change in their lives.  The decision to reach out and request help is just a phone, text, or chat away.


There is a commonly used model in the addiction field that categorizes, organizes, and makes sense of the change process. The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992) is an integrative, biopsychosocial model to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change. Here are the stages of change.


Precontemplation (Not Ready)

People in the Precontemplation stage do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future, usually measured as the next six months. Being uninformed or under informed about the consequences of one’s behavior may cause a person to be in the Precontemplation stage. Multiple unsuccessful attempts at change can lead to demoralization about the ability to change. Precontemplators are often characterized in other theories as resistant, unmotivated, or unready for help.


Contemplation (Getting Ready)

Contemplation is the stage in which people intend to change in the next six months. They are more aware of the pros of changing, but are also acutely aware of the cons. This weighing between the costs and benefits of changing can produce profound ambivalence that can cause people to remain in this stage for long periods of time. This phenomenon is often characterized as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. People often say things like, “I can get my gambling under control.” or, “if I have one more big win, I’ll be alright.”


Internally, they realize on some level that gambling is negatively impacting their functioning. Individuals in the Contemplation stage are not ready for traditional action-oriented programs that expect participants to act immediately.


Preparation (Ready)

Preparation is the stage in which people intend to take action in the immediate future, usually measured as the next month. Typically, they have already taken some significant action in the past year. These individuals have a plan of action, such as relying on a self-change approach. These are the people who should be recruited for action-oriented programs. The FCCG regularly refers people to self-help programs as well as counseling.



The Action is the stage in which people have made specific overt modifications in their lifestyles within the past six months. Because action is observable, the overall process of behavior change often has been equated with action. But in the Transtheoretical Model, Action is only one of five stages. Taking action often means researching and then reaching out to get help. Once the person knows where help is and how to get it, action includes making a plan and sticking to the plan.



Maintenance is the stage in which people have made specific overt modifications in their lifestyles and are working to prevent relapse; however, they do not apply change processes as frequently as do people in Action. While in the Maintenance stage, people are less tempted to relapse and grow increasingly more confident that they can continue their changes. Maintenance is a lifelong process, many problem gamblers who are in recovery find that a firm commitment to making recovery a part of their life is crucial to success.


Should you want to take a positive action towards making a change, consider where you or someone you love are on this model. Should you have a gambling problem and need to get help, call 888-ADMIT-IT. We regularly help people in the initial steps of taking action and making a change.