New Years’ Resolutions will Succeed! 6 Stages of Change Model…

• Do you have career goals for the New Year?
•Worried about making resolutions which may fail?
• Learn about the 'Stages of Change' model for decision making
• Find out why NONE of your previous New Years’ Resolutions failed!

Coaching clients through the process of change and supporting them along the way, is very fulfilling for me. Whether working in a clinical counseling role or a career counseling role - effective counseling is about helping people achieve their goals and improve their quality of life.
As a Career Counselor I help clients with a wide range of career management needs: job-loss, job-search, career confusion, promotions, interviews, corporate culture etc. Some people become discouraged due to a mistaken belief that they have failed in their lives, marriages or in their careers. They may recite a litany of perceived failures. In both of my counseling roles, I provide support, education and encouragement. I can help clients ‘re-frame’ their experiences. Often these “failures” are part of the change process and clients have an “aha” experience once they understand this model.

In my previous role as a clinical counselor, I frequently observed couples or family members trying to change each other or demanding that another member must change. Sometimes, parents bribed their teenagers or children to 'behave' or to change or to act in ways which  they wanted. As a University Career Counselor, many students are in degrees and majors which they didn't choose. Even if they beat the odds and graduate, they won't last long in the profession. Competitors with true passion for the field will always win out in the end. Coerced change is temporary, condescending and instills a sense of failure. If a person doesn't buy into the change process and actively participate - it won't take root.

Dr. Prochaska and Dr. DiClemente developed the “Transtheoretical Model of Change,” which was based on a analysis of different theories of psychotherapy. The original model was created based on smoking cessation research. In their trans-theoretical model of change, the process was conceptualized in 5 stages (1997). Currently, the updated model includes a sixth stage.

Pre-contemplation - is the stage at which there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware or under-aware of their problems. People do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future, usually measured as the next 6 months.

Contemplation - is the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it. However, they have not yet made a commitment to take action. They may intend to change in the next 6 months.

Preparation - is a stage that combines intention and behavioral criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action in the immediate future, usually measured as the next month.

Action - involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy. People have made specific overt modifications in their life styles within the past 6 months.

Maintenance - is the stage in which people work to maintain their new behaviors, prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during the action phase. For addictive behaviors this stage extends from six months to an indeterminate period/ongoing.

Termination - individuals have zero temptation and 100% self-efficacy. The are certain that they won’t return to their old unhealthy habits, as a way of coping.

In the updated model, the concept of relapse has been added."However, it is not a stage in itself but rather the "return from action or maintenance to an earlier stage." Of note; these 6 stages are not linear and sequential. You may begin at the action stage, move to maintenance then revert to pre-contemplation etc… Any of the stages can occur in any order. The fluidity of this conceptual model is why so many practitioners incorporate it into treatment planning. Though, you may 'fall off the wagon,'  you can always return to the  action stage at a later date. A partial relapse, doesn't negate all of your previous efforts. Just dust yourself off and climb back onto the proverbial horse.

Thus, it is essential that both you and your counselor understand the Change Model. Otherwise you may unnecessarily become frustrated with 'slow progress' and/or the lack of progress will impact the therapeutic relationship.Change must happen naturally. Sometimes the pressure to change is self imposed other times it’s external. It is essential to explore who you are, what need and where you are in the change cycle. Be kind to yourself and be realistic when setting goals for the New Year.

Author: © 2010 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon Cohen, MA, Psychology, CPRP, Career Counselor
and Career Transition Specialist.


  1. I like your writing style. Nice blog.

  2. Thanks Ollie. Let me know if there are particular topics which you'd like to read about.

    Sharon C

  3. In reply to one on your tweets, I did make a few connections over the holiday season. One senior executive who sat down with me for an hour and gave very valuable advice said "This place (the office) is a bit of a ghost-town between Christmas and New Years. I am glad I had this refreshing conversation with you to take a break from the EXCEL work I was catching up on." I think this is a great time to buy time with the 'usually busy' people.