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The 5 Stages of Change in Addiction Recovery

By July 2, 2021 July 31st, 2021 No Comments
5 Stages of Change in Addiction Recovery

Change can often be a nebulous term. Many people may think of change as a singular decision or a pivotal moment that marks a new chapter in someone’s life. For others, change can be viewed as a myriad of layers of internal contemplation that progress throughout different stages. Psychologists and mental health professionals have a number of theories surrounding the psychology behind major life changes.

Understanding what motivates one to change, for better or worse, is paramount in improving his/her physical and mental health condition. One of the most universally accepted models is the Transtheoretical model, also known as the Five Stages of Change. This model illustrates change as a multi-stage process in which an individual is in multiple mindsets before, during, and after a major change. They are broken down into the following stages:1

  • The Precontemplation Stage of Change
  • The Contemplation Stage of Change
  • The Preparation Stage of Change
  • The Action Stage of Change
  • The Maintenance Stage of Change

One of the most drastic and important uses of this model manifests in addiction treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that 8.6% of the US population needed drug or alcohol addiction treatment in one year.2

As addiction becomes more and more widespread, mental health professionals are developing and utilizing evidence-based treatment modalities. However, in order for an individual to be helped in breaking free from addiction, that person must be willing to make changes in his/her life, starting with the most important change: deciding to enter addiction treatment.3

Here are the 5 Stages of Change in Addiction Recovery

1. The Precontemplation Stage of Change

The Precontemplation Stage of Change generally consists of an individual not yet being aware of needing to make a change. In cases of addiction, individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol may not be aware of the negative consequences of his/her use. In cases of a lack of awareness or denial surrounding one’s substance use, certain events or interactions often play a role in surfacing the notion that he/she may need to get help. Many examples of this include DUIs or substance-related arrests, family or friends expressing concern, or interventions.

2. The Contemplation Stage of Change

In the Contemplation Stage of Change, addicted individuals begin to understand that their current lifestyle is not sustainable. At this point, no action is taken or any plans made. However, some may argue that this is one of the most vital moments in an individual’s recovery. Without the recognition of an issue, it is nearly impossible to make authentic and effective change.

3. The Preparation Stage of Change

Sometimes referred to as the Planning Stage, or the Stage of Readiness, The Preparation Stage refers to individuals who are actively looking over options or methods of receiving help. One of the best examples of this stage is when an individual is looking into treatment options for addiction. Some people may have more particular needs or additional circumstances that need to be addressed. Individuals with time-sensitive responsibilities, medical conditions, co-occurring disorders or other factors should plan and communicate concerns with treatment professionals or supportive loved ones in order to acquire to best fit for him/her.

4. The Action Stage of Change

The Action Stage of Change is one of the most noticeable and dynamic steps. In this stage, the individual makes a physical action to make a change. This stage is usually first observed when the addicted individual enrolling in treatment. From there, the individual takes his/her first steps in a new life in recovery.

5. The Maintenance Stage of Change

The Maintenance Stage is generally seen after the initial treatment process is completed. Even though someone is finished with the treatment process, there are still steps one must take in order to decrease the risk of relapse. While Aversion Therapy or other medically-assisted treatments is shown to reduce the severity of cravings, it is still vital to keep to a recovery-based lifestyle to maintain a status of relapse prevention.4 By exercising the new skills acquired in treatment, people in recovery can better avoid potential relapse triggers, cope with stressors, and navigate any spikes in cravings.

Schick Shadel Hospital is Ready to Help You Make a Change

Addictive behaviors are difficult to change due to their repetitious and self-escalating nature. As drug and alcohol addiction progresses over time, the addicted individual becomes more dependent on their substance of choice in order to function in their daily life. Substance use disorders are also devastating to everyone involved. Not only does alcohol and drug addiction affect the individual, but it affects family, friends, and colleagues. If left untreated or unaddressed, addiction will destroy your relationships, your finances, and your health.

Our team at Schick Shadel Hospital is ready to help you make the most important change in your life. With our cutting-edge medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapies, we are able to offer fast and efficient services that other treatment centers cannot. If you are ready to make an effective change in your life, our intake team is on standby to help.

Visit our Contact Us page, or call us at 1-800-CRAVING today!



  1. DiClemente, C. C., & Prochaska, J. O. (1998). Toward a comprehensive, transtheoretical model of change: Stages of change and addictive behaviors. In W. R. Miller & N. Heather (Eds.), Treating addictive behaviors (pp. 3–24). Plenum Press. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-1934-2_1
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2013. Data on Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2014. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-489. BHSIS Series S-73.
  3. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide – Effective treatment of substance abuse and addiction. (National Institute on Drug Abuse) (drugabuse.gov)
  4. McLellan, A. T. et al. (2000). Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11015800 Medicare Interactive.org. (2016). Medicare coverage of treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse. Retrieved from http://www.medicareinteractive.org/get-answers/medicare-covered-services/mental-health-services/medicare-coverage-of-treatment-for-alcoholism-and-drug-abuse? (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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