Five Stages of Readiness to Know for Substance Use Help

How do you know when you’re ready? Is it the encouraging words of a close friend? The acknowledgement of deep-seated anxieties you want to overcome? The loss of your job or a loved one?

Factors like these can greatly influence your readiness and willingness to accept addiction treatment, but they aren’t the entire equation. Readiness to changes is a mindset, and during the course of addiction treatment your level of readiness will likely shift.

How Ready Are You?

Your level of readiness isn’t just important at the beginning of addiction treatment. Every day, your level of readiness will impact your actions. Some days are always going to be harder than others, but maintaining a positive attitude and keeping an open mind can help you progress towards recovery and away from a perpetual state of drug abuse and dependence.

Most people will fall into one of five stages of change. These stages create a spectrum of readiness. At one end of the spectrum there is no willingness, and at the other great desire to maintain changes that have already taken place. At one end there is denial, and at the other motivation.

The five stages of readiness are:

  1. Pre-contemplative: At one end of the spectrum there is the pre-contemplative state. When someone is at this point, they don’t believe there is a problem. There is no acknowledgment of a need for help. Someone in this stage may grow angry when confronted by loved ones about a drinking problem and deny any such thing.
  2. Contemplative: The first step towards a willingness to change, this stage begins when a touch of doubt enters a person’s mind. “Maybe I really do have a problem” is a good example of one’s mental state during the contemplative stage.
  3. Preparation: This is the middle of the spectrum, and many people will revert back to this many times throughout the course of their addiction recovery. During this stage no action is being taken, but the need to change is acknowledged and plans are being put in place.
  4. Action: This is the “just do it” stage. The action phase is heavily leaning towards the other end of the spectrum from pre-contemplative. This is the stage where things are being done and steps are being made to correct the problem.
  5. Maintenance: This is not the end of the process, but it is the other end of the readiness spectrum. At this point changes have been made, but the struggle to maintain those positive changes continues.

These stages are not chronological, and it is perfectly possible for someone to transition from one stage to another while skipping one that is seemingly in between. Becoming more aware of the stages of change and asking yourself truthfully which stage you are in can provide more insight as you go through addiction treatment.

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