If you’ve ever attempted to eat healthy, start working out or quit smoking, you’re well aware of the complexities of behavior change.

In 1977, professors James O. Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente developed the transtheoretical model of behavior change to understand how people change their habits, ways or actions.

Based on different theories of psychotherapy, the transtheoretical model explains six phases of change and processes of change including preparation, relapse and determination. The model helps us understand the reasons why people change. It may be due to environmental, personal or behavioral factors.

Read on to find out more about the transtheoretical stages of change model, its steps and implications.

Transtheoretical Model Of Behavior Change


Change may be inevitable, but it’s never easy—especially if we’re set in our ways. Breaking or developing a habit takes time and concentrated efforts. You may even seek external support to help you stick to your plan. Based on the study of human behavior, the transtheoretical model of change defines six-step stages of change process—from precontemplation to relapse—to understand behavioral change.

Before you attempt to change your ways, you must ask yourself why you want to change in the first place. Understanding your motivations is a concrete way to embark on your journey.

Here are the different phases of change in the stages of change model: 

  1. Precontemplation

Oftentimes, we’re not aware that we need to change something about ourselves. This acts as a roadblock in the process of change. If your friends have ever held an intervention for you, you know what it means to be in denial. You may not know how your actions are affecting or impacting those around you—or even yourself. Being in a position that can affect others is enough reason to change your behavior. Precontemplation is the stage where you come to terms with your actions and behavior.


  1. Contemplation

Even when you know that changing your behavior will have positive results, you’re reluctant to go ahead with it. This may be caused by a fear of stepping out of your comfort zone. It can even be due to uncertainty surrounding the outcomes—the ‘what ifs’. Mental roadblocks like biases or indecision often stand in the way of change. Fear of the unknown may be another reason. If you feel like you’re giving something up, you might even drop the entire idea. Therefore, it’s critical to think about things carefully before stepping forward. Weigh your options in the contemplation stage.


  1. Preparation

Change doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re trying to achieve something—like adopting a healthy lifestyle or quitting refined sugar—you need to take your time. Baby steps will be far more effective than a complete overhaul. Make an action plan, list out what you need to do and measure your success against predefined metrics. This way you can keep track of your progress, which can motivate you to keep going.


  1. Action

We know how difficult it is to stick to your goals—especially if they don’t immediately impact our lives. The next stage in the phases of change is taking action. Imagine you’re all pumped up to start working out. You join the gym and attend a few classes. But after a week, you’re skipping because it’s either ‘too early in the morning’ or you ‘just don’t have the time’. The action stage doesn’t last long if you’re not careful or determined enough. You need support from others to keep encouraging you or self-motivation to maintain your momentum.


  1. Relapse

An unavoidable circumstance of behavioral change is a relapse. Relapses are as common as is your determination to change. Either we become restless while waiting to change or find comfort in where we used to be. It’s important to recognize when you’re about to relapse. It may be when you’re anxious or frustrated about your progress. This is where you do some reconnaissance to remind yourself of your goals.


  1. Maintenance

Maintenance is the stage where you push yourself to resist temptation. It’s tempting to fall back into your old behavior. But for the sake of all your hard work, you must try to focus on your goals. Reward yourself whenever you accomplish small feats to keep moving forward. Setbacks may stall you but don’t worry, it’s all part of the process. Develop a way to deal with temptation, because after this you’re well on your way to successfully changing your behavior.

Understanding change behavior can help you move forward in life. The stages of change defined by the transtheoretical model outline what everyone goes through when we decide to change our behavior. When the circumstances are such that the only option left is to move with the times, we must encourage ourselves to take necessary action.

Harappa’s Embracing Change course incorporates powerful frameworks to teach you how to take risks and deal with setbacks. Even during the most difficult times, you’ll learn to seek new opportunities, build resilience and learn from failures. By the end of this course, you will no longer be afraid to embrace uncertainty. 

Explore topics such as What is Change Management, How to Embrace ChangeChange Management ProcessChange Management Strategies & Understanding Resistance to Change from Harappa Education and learn to adapt to change quickly.