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The Transtheoretical Model Of Change

Written by: Deanna Goodson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As nutrition, wellness, and mental health coach, I work a lot with people on building new habits and creating change in the day to day lives. Habits are built on consistency and built slowly over time. If you’ve ever noticed New Year’s Resolutions, don’t work. Part of the problem is that people expect to make too many changes at once.

This is why you find people who say in January that they’re going to work out six times a week for an hour at the gym are not going to the gym by the middle of February. They give up and don’t realize that if they started with twice a week visits to the gym and built up from there, they’d understand that they do have the time to commit to this habit and that they can maintain it so by the end of the year they can achieve the goal they set out to in January.

Habit-based change is not an all-or-nothing proposition. “Small changes make big impacts” is my motto. It came to be so when I learned the principle myself. I used to weigh over 400 pounds. With a lot of effort and hard work, as well as a team of professionals beside me, I lost nearly 200 pounds, and I’m still going strong despite putting on a little ‘quarantine weight gain’.

Something I keep going back to with my clients is known as the Prochaska Change Model or the Transtheoretical Model of Change. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente came up with the concept in the late 70s. The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) was first used to examine the experiences of smokers who quit on their own versus those requiring further treatment. The duo was trying to figure out why some people were able to quit on their own while others needed more assistance.

The Transtheoretical Model of Change operates under the assumption that people do not change their behavior patterns quickly and decisively. Rather, a change in behavior, specifically habitual behavior, occurs in a cyclical process. The TTM, therefore, is not a theory but more of a model.

The TTM operates under the belief or assumption that individuals move through six stages of change. They are:

1. Precontemplation: When in the pre-contemplation phase, a person doesn’t even realize that they need to change and will not be taking action in the foreseeable future (the next six months or more). At this point, the ‘problem’ behavior is not seen as problematic. A person does not realize that they may be doing harm to themselves or others. People in this stage often don’t see the benefits of changing their behavior or building new habits.

2. Contemplation: In this stage, people start to see that their behavior is problematic and think about potentially changing it. They are not ready to make the change, but they are working on getting there in most cases. Of course, in others, people never leave the pre-contemplation or contemplation stages. These folks are the most difficult to work with it in a coaching or counseling setting.

3. Preparation: When a person is in the preparation phase, it’s easy to figure out that they are ready and prepared to change their behavior, usually within the next 30 days. They also begin taking small steps toward changing their behavior and building new habits. It’s sort of like dipping your toe into the lake before diving in fully. Clients may or may not see success at this stage. If they see progress, then they will most likely move into the next phase. If not, they may not leave this stage for some time (if they ever do).

4. Action: In the action stage, the client is in full habit-change mode even though the habits and behaviors that have changed are relatively new to the client. This can be an exciting time for clients, and they should see significant progress which will propel them forward in the behavior change process. Depending on the changes that need to be made, clients can spend a long time in the action stage.

5. Maintenance: When someone is in maintenance mode, they have successfully changed behaviors or built new habits. They’ve been in the ‘zone’ for at least six months or longer and intend to maintain their behavior change going forward. While here, clients will do whatever they can to relapse to prior stages in the process.

6. Relapse: As with most habits and behaviors, there is the risk of slipping backward at any time. Relapse happens often. Clients and providers should expect it. When it does happen, the individual should return to preparation and then the action phase depending on how long they’ve ceased the behavior. Maintenance will most likely occur again and probably take less time to achieve than it did the first (or second, or third) time.

Some things I’ve learned about habit-based change and behavior modification.

  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Behavior change happens over time. Slow and steady wins the race. Many people go full throttle as if they were Yusain Bolt running the 100m when, in fact, that will cause them to burn out and not stay consistent with the changes they want to make.

  • Consistency is key. Building a new habit or changing your behavior, you need to get into a groove. Being consistent, for example, with working out twice a week for twenty minutes at a time is a good start. You can then build up the habit once it’s in place.

  • Start slow. It’s important to be changing behavior. Start where it’s the simplest and go from there. When you see success, you’ll want more. Guaranteed.

  • Don’t give up. Habit-based change and behavior modification are important. It’s a process and will not happen overnight. Be patient and consistent, and you will see results.

  • Don’t expect immediate results. For example, when beginning with new, healthy habits, realize it takes time to see results. You will not lose weight overnight or become a world-class athlete immediately. Over time, you will see the changes and results you want.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some food for thought related to habit-based change and behavior modification. Coaching can provide a great arena for creating new habits and building better, more self-serving behaviors. I invite you to read my bio below and if you’re looking for some assistance, feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to help at any time.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Deanna Goodson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Deanna Goodson is a professional life and mental health coach, nutritional counselor, and writer. She received her coach training at Rhodes Wellness College in Canada and received an ACC credential from the International Coaching Federation in May of 2019, which was recently renewed. As a mental health coach, Deanna is well-versed in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Emotional Freedom Technique, aka Tapping. Deanna is also a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and has a certificate in Emotional Eating Psychology (EEP). She follows an intuitive eating approach for her clients and helps them repair their relationship with food.



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