Theory of Behavioral Change
One theory that seeks to understand how people change is called the Transtheoretical Model or TTM. This theory has been around for over 40 years and seeks to explain how behavior change occurs. TTM is structured around five stages of behavioral change and was primarily designed to explain how individuals implemented an exercise routine or stopped smoking. Today, TTM is used to describe an intentional process of change for those individuals with substance use disorders, process disorders, and health-related disorders. TTM is unique in that the stages of change are integrative and designed to explain how behavior change occurs. There are five stages of change including precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
The precontemplation stage is the first stage and generally involves an individual who is thinking of changing behavior, yet has no intention of changing problematic behaviors. For example, an alcoholic may think about modifying their behaviors; however, may be doing so only to appease others. Even though one might not act on changing behaviors, this stage does allow for the addicted individual to begin thinking about the process of change.
Contemplation involves intent to change problematic behaviors within the foreseeable future; typically within six months. The addict in the contemplation stage will begin to think more about how their lives could be different if they quit drinking or using drugs. There is a considerable thought that goes into changing behavior and how this can be accomplished.
An individual in the preparation stage intends to change within the next month. Individuals in this stage are ready to change and seem to understand the risks involved in continuing with drinking or using drugs. In essence, the individual is preparing for behavioral changes.
During the action stage, individuals have made specific modifications to problem behaviors and implemented these changes within the past six months. The alcoholic or drug addict has started a program of recovery and works to change negative or destructive behaviors.
In the maintenance stage, individuals have made significant changes to their problem behavior and are attempting to prevent relapse.
The Transtheoretical Model is but one of many theories that seek to explain how behavior change occurs. TTM does provide a conceptual framework for understanding behavioral change in substance abusers and can help mental health professionals in designing treatment plans. As with any behavioral change process or theory, the underlying core is the same. An individual has to want to change for any process to be successful.