What Can I Do to Progress in My Changing Process? Part 2

In this second part of the blog on the stages of change, a few techniques are presented to help you progress from one stage to another or support a loved one going through a process of change. However, note that returning to a previous stage is not a failure. Maybe it can be seen as a reminder that more work had to be done in this previous stage before progressing to the next stage. Humans are constantly changing and adapting to external and internal situations; therefore, it is normal that our motivation also fluctuates.

  1. Precontemplation: At this stage, as you may not be aware that the behaviour is problematic yet, it can be helpful to start by simply evaluating it and thinking about what you want or need. In other words, we want to develop a more conscious awareness of the behaviour.
    • How to help someone during the precontemplation stage:
      • Offer support and active listening.
      • Provide information about the impacts of the behaviour, in a non-judgmental way.
  2. Contemplation: As you are starting to recognize the impacts of the behaviour, you may want to identify the pros and cons of making a change. This can help to see how your life could be different, should you modify the behaviour in any way.
    • How to help someone during the contemplation stage:
      • Make space to discuss the pros and cons of change with the person.
      • Let the person decide for themselves if they want to change the behaviour.
  3. Preparation: At this stage we want to identify any obstacles that may get in the way of making a change, as well as the skills and steps needed to make it happen.
    • How to help someone during the preparation stage: 
      • Help the person identify any obstacles.
      • Encourage the person in their decision and planning.
  4. Action: Here we want to use your support system and coping strategies to make the plan happen for as long as you can. Remember, it is normal to return to the preparation stage (or another previous stage), and think of more pros and cons or identify other obstacles that made it difficult to follow through with the plan. 
    • How to help someone during the action stage:
      • Reach-out and check-in with the person.
      • Remind them of the long-term benefits of their goals.
      • Play a supportive role in the life of the person.
  5. Maintenance: After the action plan has been put in place and practiced, we want to identify strategies and coping tools to help maintain it for a longer period. The idea is to have tools that can be helpful to support you as you experience a whole range of emotions (e.g.: What/who will you turn to when you are happy? When you are sad? Do you feel at risk of going back to the old behaviour if you have a bad day?).
    • How to help someone during the maintenance stage: 
      • Remind the person of their strengths and what they have accomplished so far.
      • Help the person develop a plan to support them in the long-term.

If you are experiencing challenges in changing a behaviour or are finding it difficult to support a loved one in their own process of change, know that therapists at CFIR-CPRI are available to support you. Our professionals are trained to support you to better understand what prevents you from attaining the changes you are hoping for, and to develop your motivation to change. Contact us via admin@cfir.ca and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

Natalie Guenette, M.A., R. P. is a Registered Psychotherapist who works with adults in both English and French. She works with an integrative framework and provides services to those experiencing a broad range of difficulties, including substance use, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and trauma.  

Why can’t I change? Part 1

Have you ever found yourself feeling stuck and unable to change a behaviour? Not having the motivation to make the necessary change? Feeling like ‘it’s just not the right time yet’? This might be because you are still ambivalent about changing.

The stages of change model (Prochaska et al., 1992) describes 5 stages that individuals experience when trying to change. Research shows that this model is an effective tool to help change a broad spectrum of behaviours, including addictions (Rahian, N. & Cogburn, M., 2023). It is important to note that it is common, and normal, to switch between stages and fall back to a stage we had previously ‘completed’, as the changing process is NOT linear. 

  1. Precontemplation: At this stage, individuals may not see their behaviour as a problem, and therefore, may not think about changing it. There can be resistance to make any modification and/or to receive support. There is often denial about the problematic behaviour. 
  2. Contemplation: In this second phase, individuals are starting to recognize and acknowledge that the behaviour may be problematic and are starting to consider changing it. Due to the ambivalence felt towards the worthiness of the changing process, individuals can often remain stuck at this stage for some time. During the contemplation stage, individuals are usually considering the pros and cons of change, although, because the behaviour is still serving them in some way, the cons associated with the change continue to outweigh the perceived pros.
  3. Preparation: individuals are committed to change at this stage and have usually started taking steps toward change. An action plan is set, and the pros of changing are now outweighing the cons. 
  4. Action: While in the action stage, individuals are actively involved in modifying their behaviour. This is usually the shortest stage, and when they are at the highest risk to go back to the initial behaviour, or, in other words, to relapse. 
  5. Maintenance: This final stage is when individuals have maintained the changed behaviour for about six months. The risk of relapsing has reduced, and they are building their confidence in their ability to maintain the new coping strategies developed throughout the changing process.  

Therapists at CFIR-CPRI can help support you to better understand what may prevent you from attaining the changes you are hoping for, and also to develop your motivation to change. Contact us via admin@cfir.ca and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

Natalie Guenette, M.A., R. P. is a Registered Psychotherapist who works with adults in both English and French. She works with an integrative framework and provides services to those experiencing a broad range of difficulties, including substance use, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and trauma.  

LIFE TRANSITIONS

Major life transitions can occur at any stage in life. Whether it is starting university or college and living on your own for the first time, starting a new job, becoming a parent, or experiencing a death or loss of a loved one, life transitions can evoke many complex feelings. When we experience a big life-altering change, we are often faced with many unknowns and a sense of unpredictability regarding our future. Confronting the unknown and uncertain can evoke feelings of stress, worry, fear, self-doubt, grief, and depressive experiences. While these feelings are normal when faced with a major life change, they can still feel intense and overwhelming. To support yourself or loved ones during a time of major life transition, it is important to remember to: 

  1. Acknowledge and validate your feelings—Sometimes our emotions can feel so overwhelming and intense because we don’t yet know why or what we are experiencing. Acknowledging that a life transition is likely to evoke strong emotions and finding new and healthy ways to identify and validate your feelings can help you navigate change. 
  1. Accept the inevitability of change— We are constantly changing, growing, and evolving in our lives and relationships. Change can be difficult and overwhelming, but it can also provide an opportunity for self-growth and development. Through experiencing change, we can discover new possibilities and parts of ourselves, which can be exciting and motivating!
  1. Reach Out and Connect—Sometimes experiencing a major change in your life can feel lonely and isolating. Connecting with loved ones, members of your community, or others who may be experiencing a similar life change can help you to navigate this difficult time. Engaging in psychotherapy can be another way to address any difficulties that you are facing because of a major life change. In the process of psychotherapy, you can learn new ways to navigate difficult emotions, and develop a deeper understanding and meaning about what this major life change means to you. 

If you are experiencing a major life transition, and wanting to better understand and navigate your experience, CFIR has counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists who are available to support you!

Jennifer Bradley, M. A. is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at CFIR. She works with individuals experiencing a wide range of psychological and relational difficulties including life transitions, anxiety and stress, trauma, depression, mood and grief, interpersonal difficulties, and issues related to self-esteem. Jennifer is an integrative therapist with a particular interest in existential, relational, and psychodynamic approaches to psychotherapy. 

Hold the Chocolate Chips: Change and How to Do It

Today, I scooped myself a bowl of ice cream. This is no different from countless other times I’ve done the same thing, save for one fact: I didn’t add chocolate chips. Now, let me back up for a second. I’ve been putting chocolate chips in my ice cream since I was a small boy. (somewhere out there in internet land, there is a mention of me eating too much ice cream-it’s true!).

Vanilla ice cream? Add some chocolate chips. Chocolate? Add chocolate chips. Cookie dough brownie with fudge? You guessed it, that’s going to get some chocolate chips too. So why didn’t I add them tonight? The answer: the global pandemic.

By now, I’m sure we’re all sick of reading about and talking about and hearing about the COVID-19 pandemic. So, I won’t belabour that. However, one side effect of the situation is that it’s caused almost all of us to re-think our routines. I didn’t add chocolate chips because when I went to grab another package at the grocery store earlier this week, they were all out (we really do seem to modulate our emotions with baked goods). That made me change a tiny part of my daily routine in a way I haven’t done for probably 20 years.

I’m betting that you, dear reader, might have had something similar happen to you in your week. Maybe you made that meal that you’ve been planning on for months. Maybe you cleaned the baseboards. Maybe you finally reached out and actually called your mother, or your grandmother (or their male counterparts!). Whatever it was, I’m betting that it felt weird at first, but that you felt better after doing it.

See, massive societal changes don’t just change things on the macro (read: big picture) level; they change on the micro, too.

Brent Mulrooney, M.A.S.P. | Therapist

See, massive societal changes don’t just change things on the macro (read: big picture) level; they change it on the micro, too. For 20 years, I have consistently thought that ice cream just wasn’t right without chocolate chips, so I consistently added them to every bowl I’ve ever eaten. Today, because of a situation entirely out of my control, I changed my habit. But here’s the thing: I liked it better. I tried it and I liked it better.

That got me to thinking. How often do we recognize that there’s something happening in our lives that just doesn’t sit right with us? Maybe you don’t call your friends because you think you’re going to bother them? Maybe you want to say hello to someone in an elevator, but you get shy because you’ve never done it before and …don’t weird people do that? (I say hello quite often, so make of that what you will). Maybe you want to start going to the gym, but you haven’t found the right day, or the right time, or the right gym outfit.

Yet, when we actually try something new, those tales we tell ourselves don’t often hold water. Sometimes they’re just not true. Sometimes, the ice cream is better without the chocolate chips.

Looking to start a journey towards change and your life? Mental health professionals at CFIR can help you navigate where you’re coming from and support you in developing healthy strategies to build an emotionally healthy future.

Brent Mulrooney, Ph.D., is a therapist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships. He works with individuals and families to improve mood, anxiety, relationships, work, and school. He also works to alleviate problems associated with substance use, learning difficulties (including ADHD and Learning Disabilities), bullying, trauma, violence, grief and loss, transitions in life, self-esteem, gender identity, sexuality, and intimate relationships.