Models of Change

Small safe experiments seem well-suited to approaches to therapy seeking to identify, initiate and monitor the processes of change.

One of the better-known models of change was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente. The process is clearly described in an on-line blog and the stages of change can be summarised as you see below:

Image result for prochaska's stages of change"
Prochaska and DeClemente

Looking at this stage-by-stage, the approach demonstrates that much effort has to go into get things ‘kick-started’. It cannot be initiated just for the asking. Human beings seem to be designed to grind to a halt before moving forward. This early stage of denial is rather important and potentially more helpful than we realise. It stops us in our tracks in order to ask the question – do we need to change? What was that? Is this a temporary blip? Is it worth bothering with? Just get over it! How often have you had such thoughts!


It may take time before the need for change emerges. Getting to a state of ‘readiness’ to change may take time. For people who know me, this is what I refer to as taking the ‘scenic route’ to change.

Action requires a shift in my way of thinking. It is ill-advised for me to act unless I have identified the options available to me. This requires me to make judgements about the situation in which I now find myself, BUT I cannot make those judgements unless I can think. My ability to think is one of the first casualties when I am lobbed into a shocking situation. So, as with our road safety training from childhood – STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.

A rather friendly way of thinking about this is represented in the next diagram. Note the need to go round-and-round for a time early on. Even later on, we need to review what we’ve acheived. Isn’t that exactly the same as our need to consider the results of any small, safe experiment?

Each turn around the green oval, below, is a safe experiment. Each safe experiment needs preparation and each result needs to be reviewed in order to hang on to – maintain – any forward movement.

best prochaska / stages of change handout I've come across! love it! Therapy Tools, Play Therapy, Art Therapy, Therapy Activities, Change Management, Cbt, Social Work, Social Skills, School Counseling

Also, please note that action does initiate change but some people are better at maintaining change than others. Some safe experiments are easy to intiate, and some are not so easy to sustain.

Have you noticed that?

The classic example here is the New Year Resolution. These are easy to make but are often not thought through and they are difficult to sustain in practice. This model shows that the failure of new years’ resolutions reflects our failure to respect the importance of preparation.

Virginia Satir and the Systemic view of Change

Virginia Satir offered another view of change. One that still relies on the scenic route to change!

Virginia Satir change_process by Michael Erickson
This model suggests we will go around in circles until such time as something unusual enters our life. In my experience as a teacher, this was often entering a course of study.

Going to a therapist can be just such a ‘foreign element’. It can bring resistance and chaos. Fortunately, it does not have to do this, but it is not easy to transform ourselves without something ‘tripping us up’, as the illustration shows.

What do you make of this model, when compared to the notion the Window of Tolerance (WOT) that is tempting ourselves into catastrophising, ritualising, rigidity and chaos?

This brings me to the last model of change I want to include (there are many so you could look further in to this subject if you like!).

Here is a Gestalt perspective on change.


Gestalt therapy for the development of Emotional Intelligence and  leadership - alp-network

This is drawn from:

The seven stages are:

I. Arousal: we experience an initial sensation, motivation, desire or need seeking some satisfaction. Use the Body Scan to help with this focus. That experience momentarily pushes others into the background.

II. Awareness: This greater focus changes our awareness and this may manifest in improved clarity. We make the sub-conscious, more conscious. We become more in touch with a need or desire.

III. Mobilisation: this improved awareness can mobilise our energy to act differntly in order to satisfy the clearer need.

IV. Action:  here’s a familiar word – see the inverted tree, for instance. This ‘stage’is about making an effort to move on or to take steps to make things happen.

V Contact:  making a contact is just one action I can take.  There is a risk here – a tension and an opportunity to meet a difference.

VI. Satisfaction: This stage can complete a process by fusing today’s normal with a developing new normal. We absorb the views of others and may alter the way we act.  This, in turn, may get recognition from others.

VII. Withdrawal: This is the process of retreating back into a Window of Tolerance if the need has been met. This last phase of the cycle allows us to rest from the effort made,  and become ready for the appearance of a new sensation, prompting the process to start over again.

Is this another helpful road map for you? Each phase in any model fo change will meet with resistance and interruption. Therefore, some unfinished ‘stages’ remain internalised and awaiting resolution at some future date.

As you look over different views on the processes of change, what things do they have in common? If so, what do those common threads have on your plans for any further safe experiments?

I should say that I will develop this thinking further, in due time, as I have a lot of time for Pam Levin’s Cycles of Power. Watch this space!


What transforming ideas can you remember from your past? It is likely that you did not notice where that idea came from. If you did, however, write something down about that trigger – the thing that helped bring the transforming thought or action into existence.

If you did not notice what brought it about consider, instead, the outcome or consequence of the transformation? What bits helped and what bits ended up hindering you after the event?

Use the diagram to recall anything that describes the chaos. Can you write about how you walked out of chaos into a more ‘integrated’ life – assuming this is what happened. Perhaps you noticed rigidity, rather than chaos or catastrophising, rather than chaos.

Are there things that you need – even today – to help things fit together in your life (integration is a fancy term for fitting things together). If it helps, remember a time when you did a jig-saw. Often there is a moment when a lot of pieces are fitted together but it looks big and still disorganised. Then, often all of a sudden, the picture shrinks and you can see the whole thing. The end result, fully fitting together, is most often smaller than you anticipated.

Return to:


How to give yourself a nudge

Maybe its just about change?