Friday, February 27, 2009

The facts of change, one stage at a time

How are you changing today?

Change is more than a buzzword, more than a political slogan – it’s a fact of life. Today’s training workshop took a look at the six stages of change as identified by psychologist James Prochaska, author of “Changing For Good” with John C. Norcorss and Carol DiClemente.

First, we borrowed Natalie Miller’s “Walking The Wheel Of Change” action structure that she used when presenting at the annual conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama in 2006. Then, using the psychodramatic techniques of concretization, locograms and spectograms and the role-play techniques of role reversal and doubling, we explored at how these six stages can be enlivened with props -- notice the beautiful butterfly above -- metaphors and dramatic vignettes. As we proceeded, we covered examples of personal growth, psychotherapy, coaching, staff training and clinical supervision.

Some responses from today's trainees:

"I learned group activities that can be used with staff and clients."
"It was a good learning experience."
"Was helpful to have a local or near location."
"Found a sense of acceptance and patience ...."
"Short presentations are wonderful -- I like Fridays."

If you're not familiar with Prochaska’s model – developed after studying how 1,000 people significantly changed their lives in some way – here’s a quick overview:

Pre-contemplation – In this stage, people not only can’t see the solution, they can’t even see the problem. They don’t believe they have a problem so they don’t need to change. But people around them can see problems developing.

Contemplation – Here, people start to think that they have a problem. They try to understand it and learn its causes, and they wonder about how to solve it. They believe that some day they will need to change, but they think this day is sometime in the future.

Preparation – Most people in this stage are planning to take action within a month. They’re going to save money, eat less junk food, stop smoking, reduce their drinking or somehow change their lives. The point here is that they’re making plans. They may question their motives and trying to convince themselves that they need to take action soon.

Action – At this stage, people stop the unhealthy behavior or begin the behavior they want to follow. They pour out the rest of that bottle of vodka. They break or tear up their drug paraphernalia and throw it in the trash. They decide they’re not going to hang with the same old crowd. They stop going to the same old places. They start planning their meals, cleaning out the clutter or putting a part of their paycheck into a savings account.

Maintenance – At this stage, people work on maintaining new habits. They find ways to prevent lapses and relapses. They learn how to deal with cravings and how to deal with their emotions without resorting to substances or junk food. They keep the closet clean or exercise according to schedule. Often they need to rebuild family relationships and develop new friendships.

Recycling – Change is circular and sometimes people aren't able to keep their change pattern. Although your new pattern is the ultimate goal, if you have a relapse (the doughnuts your coworker brings to work, perhaps) remember that it's not an "all or nothing" proposition: you have not failed, you had one misstep; keep working at it.