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The Stages of Change Model of Overcoming Addiction


Updated June 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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The Preparation Stage
The Stages of Change Model of Overcoming Addiction

The preparation stage involves getting ready to quit or modify your behavior.

Image © Elizabeth Hartney, 2011

The preparation stage of the stages of change (transtheoretical) model means a person has moved forward to planning and preparing for carrying out changes they contemplated. With substance addictions, thorough and thought-out preparation can be important to success.

Examples of the kinds of things a person might plan, do or decide about during the preparation stage include:

  • The kind of change to be made: Do you intend to cut down, reduce harm, or quit completely?
  • How to make the change: For example, if you intend to cut down on cigarette smoking, how much should you reduce your smoking by?
  • Obtaining necessary resources: For example, if you intend to use nicotine patches, you will need to research the most suitable type of patch, discuss with your physician the most suitable dose (many people do not use strong enough patches, and end up experiencing cravings); and actually purchase supplies of patches. If your intention is to reduce the risk of STD transmission, you will need to purchase or obtain supplies of condoms.
  • Getting rid of triggers: Triggers are reminders of your addiction that are likely to cause cravings and make it hard for you to fight going back to your addictive behavior. Triggers could include stashes of drugs or drug paraphernalia for a drug user; bottles of liquor for a drinker; ash trays and lighters for a smoker; pornography for someone with a sexual addiction. Letting go of these reminders can be a difficult process in itself, but going through the process can harden your resolve to overcome your addiction this time.
  • Putting support in place: Support can include every kind of social support, from informing friends and family who want you to overcome your addiction, to booking a place in detox and/or a treatment center, to finding a support group. It can even help to inform your addiction buddies (other drug users, drinkers, etc.) of your plans, asking them to respect your process and to not engage in the behavior around you.
There may be many other preparations that need to be made in your specific circumstance, such as finding a clean, safe place to start your new life. If you need help from a counselor or social worker, this is the time to get it. He or she may also be able to help you with other preparations.

It is important to remember not to rush the preparation stage. It will be different for everyone. For some people, such as those whose family and friends have been pleading for them to quit for years, all the support required might be readily available. For others, such as those leaving the sex trade, a whole new location and identity might be required.

Once the necessary preparations have been made, a person is typically ready to move onto the action stage.

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