OWW Blog

From licensed healthcare providers who are experts in their field

How Behavioral Change Happens: An Overview of The Transtheoretical Model of Change

behavior mental health Mar 22, 2023
behavior change

By: Haley McSweeney, M.A., LMFT

Most of us have wanted to create some kind of change in our behavior patterns or habits at some point. There are lots of ways to conceptualize change, and how to make change, and one useful model that comes from Motivational Interviewing is the Transtheoretical Model of Change.


The Transtheoretical Model of Change is a stage-based way of thinking about change. These stages include: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. It can be useful to identify which stage of change you are in with your change-related goals, and having a framework for how to think about the stages of change can help you progress to the next stage in your own behavior change journey.


Let’s take a look at a quick overview of each stage:



In this stage, we aren’t really thinking yet about making any kind of change. We likely do not even realize yet that a behavioral change would benefit us.



In this stage, we begin to recognize our need to change a behavior and increase our intentions to do it in the near future. We might still be feeling a lot of ambivalence around making change, and are creating more detailed lists of pros and cons of changing the identified behavior.



This is when we identify that making a behavioral change will improve our lives for the better. We decide we are going to take action, and begin planning and taking small steps towards change.



This is the stage where our behavior has begun to change. We are taking action to decrease our problematic behavior or replace it with a new set of coping skills or replacement change.



In this stage, we’ve been able to maintain the behavioral change for an extended amount of time; at least six months.



This stage  is where we have no desire to return to our previous behavior, and no intention to. People don’t often reach this stage. It is more common that we experience relapse/regressing or stay in the maintenance stage.


The most important things to remember are that progress is not always linear, relapse or progress loss is normal, and that you can exit and re-enter the process of change at any stage. If you are able to identify what stage of change you are currently in wit your behavior change goal, it can be useful to consider what supports, skills, or circumstances might help you progress to the next stage. Sometimes we need more resources, or accountability to others, or a shift in perspective. Sometimes we need more time in our current stage until we’re motivated or committed to moving into the next one. We’re usually ready and more willing to progress forward when the discomfort of staying the same outweighs the fear or discomfort of changing.

Outdoor Women's Wellness 

Want to stay Up to Date? 

Get our monthly newsletter on our blogs, upcoming webinars and new courses!

You're safe with us. We will never spam you or sell your contact info.