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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 Maintenance Stage
The Stages of Change Model of Overcoming Addiction

The maintenance stage is when you stay clean and sober, and free of addictive behavior, over the long haul.

Image © Elizabeth Hartney, 2011

The maintenance stage of Prochaska and DiClemente's transtheoretical model of change is concerned with continuing to achieve the progress that began in the action stage. For people with addictions, this means upholding the intentions made during the preparation stage and the behaviors introduced in the action stage.

Usually, this will mean staying abstinent from alcohol or drugs, keeping to a reduced level of addictive behaviors, sticking to limits set -- such as following a spending plan for compulsive gambling or shopping addiction, or continuing to pursue harm reduction goals, such as practicing safer sex.

The maintenance stage is most challenging after a period of time has elapsed and the focus on reaching the goal has lost its intensity. People can become complacent at this point, and they may begin to think that a small lapse will make no real difference.

Maintenance can also become difficult when the stress of life catches up with you and the old, familiar ways of coping -- using the addictive behavior -- re-surface. This is why it is important to learn new ways of coping with stress during the action stage, so that alternative strategies will be available to you during the maintenance stage.

Although many people are successful at maintaining abstinence from addictive behaviors, controlled drinking and substance use, and moderation in other addictive behaviors, relapse is also common. For this reason, "relapse" is also sometimes included as a stage within the stages of change model.

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