The Stages of Change

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The Stages of Change Model (also called the trans-theoretical model) is one way we look at behaviour change at QuIHN.

Behaviour changes don’t usually happen quickly and The Stages of Change Model doesn’t always happen in order, we can even be in two stages at once.

Progress on this model is generally on an upward spiral. Meaning even if we move to a stage we have been to before, we have more experience and a new perspective and the opportunity for growth.

QuIHN Stages of Change

What are the stages?

Pre Contemplation

In the precontemplation stage, people are not yet thinking seriously about making change and are unlikely to seek support. People in this stage do not see their current behaviours as a problem and therefore tend to be more hesitant about considering behavioural change. People may even become defensive in any attempts of other people’s efforts to pressure them to stop substance use.


In the contemplation stage, people become aware of the consequences and impacts of their behaviours and start spending time thinking about the pros and cons of their actions and behaviours. Although there’s more willingness towards behavioural change in this stage, people can tend to be ambivalent about it.


In the preparation/determination stage, people have reached the decision to commit to making a change for the better and people are also more likely to express their desire for change to trusted others. As this is a very important stage in the process of making any change, it’s useful to explore all available support and resources, ask questions and to allow time to consider the most appropriate course of action for the individual striving towards change.


The action stage of the change process is all about self-determination, momentum and willpower. In this stage people have picked up new techniques and/or implementing steps to move towards their goals.


This stage involves the maintenance of the new found change and utilising skills and wisdom that was learned along the way to achieving change. This stage can present challenges around maintaining drive, so it’s important to keep reflecting on accomplishment and avoid any temptation of going back to old habits.


And remember: In the process of change it is okay to go back, or move back and forth between stages. This is just a normal part of making changes in your behaviour.

Indigenous Stages of Change Story

This resource developed by the Northern Territory Department of Health provides a picture and brief description of the stages in the cycle of behaviour change model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who use alcohol and other drugs.

The six stages are:

  • not worried (pre-contemplation)
  • thinking (contemplating)
  • trying (planning)
  • doing (action)
  • sticking to it (maintenance)
  • oops: learning (relapse)
stages of change