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The 6 Stages of Change Model

woman looking at hill behind mountains

Wouldn’t it be nice if things were simple when it comes to recovery? But the truth is recovery is a journey, not a race. While the thought of a quick and easy recovery is exciting, the recovery process unravels over a lifetime.

To stay motivated for the long haul, it’s helpful to think of the recovery process in phases.

The stages of change model, also known as the transtheoretical model, can be used as a guide to track your progress along the way. By understanding these stages of change, you will be able to select treatment services and programs that are best suited to your unique recovery goals and needs.

The stages of change model comprise the following six elements:


During the precontemplation stage, people addicted to alcohol and drugs are not interested in, or considering, making any changes. They may be aware of the repercussions related to their addiction but justify their choices because they see more benefits than losses.

There is a sense of resistance in the precontemplation stage because people with addictions are beginning to see that they need to take steps to get better. That being said, they also feel a great sense of disheartenment that they are now caught in this cycle of abuse.


The next step in the transtheoretical model of change is the contemplation stage. During this stage, people become more aware of the consequences of their behaviour, but they tend to be uncertain about the possibility of changing.

While the people in this stage are getting closer to making a commitment to recovery, they may not be ready for treatment as they remain ambivalent about change.


When people enter this stage, they intend to take action in the immediate future. The preparation stage is also the stage where people start to gather information about how to change their behaviour, which may include contacting rehabilitation centres to find out what strategies and resources are available to help them.


During the action stage, people are open to receiving help and are also actively seeking support from others. They have accepted that the need to make a change and are ready to take action to achieve this. This includes entering an addiction treatment program, making major changes in their lifestyle, or actively participating in sober support groups.

The ultimate goal of the action stage is to achieve total abstinence and adopt a healthy, recovery-based lifestyle.


Once people reach the maintenance stage of recovery, usually after approximately six months of consistency in the action stage, they have made modifications to their lifestyles that are long lasting and are adopting new methods to maintain well-being and manage triggers for relapse. Its duration can last from a few months to a few years after an individual achieves sobriety.

The main goal in this stage is to maintain a new status quo and keep in mind the progress that’s been made.


The next stage is controversial, in that it is debateable in the field as to whether it is a stage. From a neurological perspective, neural pathways (routines, habits, etc.) weaken during times in which they are not in use; however, these neural pathways, while no longer as strong, still exist. As in riding a bicycle – even if a person has not done it in a long time, if they were to hop on a bike, they would quickly remember how. The same sequence can occur with relapse and addiction.

With the termination stage, one could view it as a point in recovery where people no longer, or infrequently, feel tempted to use substances. In the termination stage, and arguably the maintenance stage, if people active in recovery feel triggers and stressors that could lead to a relapse, they are consistently able to address them in a healthy manner through the relapse prevention skills they learned in treatment.

The stages of change in recovery are flexible and the progression and duration of these stages are highly dependent on the individual.

Recovery is a lifelong journey and we’re ready to help.

If you think you have tried everything to get well – you haven’t. Don’t give up. The treatment you’ve tried may not have been the right fit.

Call us at one of the numbers below to start a conversation about how we can help you.

Bellwood (Toronto, ON): 866-281-3012
Edgewood (Vancouver Island, BC): 604-210-8713
Ledgehill (Lawrencetown, NS): 866-419-4483
Sandstone (Calgary, AB): 866-295-8981
Gateway (Peterborough, Ontario): 705-874-2000
Nouveau Depart (Montreal, Quebec): 866-738-5572
EHN Online: 866-345-8192

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