Stages of change part two – contemplation

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


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Contemplation, thinking about your problem is the second stage of change.

Last time we began our discussion of the stages of change by describing how someone might be confronted with a situation where others think you have a problem, a need to change, even before we recognize that something is a problem. We called that stage of change Pre-contemplation.

Lots of people end up in the therapist office, court, child custody mediation, a Drunk driver program or substance abuse treatment who never thought they had a problem. Sometimes they are sent with an ultimatum, do this treatment or else. Sometimes it is a spouse or a boss who says change or else. Sometimes it is too late and the or else has taken effect.

Often they resist thinking that they have a problem despite being required to go to some type of treatment. An interesting thing happens too many of these people, sooner or later. They see other people confronting their problems and those people’s lives are getting better. This is especially powerful in group settings where a group member gets a new job or relationship, someone gets to see their kids again or gets a license back, or someone loses a lot of weight.

Sometimes this mental change can occur after they read a book on solving a particular problem and they start to consider if they might need to change. Once the willingness to think about change occurs they have reached step two in the process of change model.

Step 2: Contemplation

In this stage, the person who is on the road to change is gathering information. That does not mean they agree they have a problem, they may, they may not, but they are open to looking at the facts. So let me continue my weight loss story from our last episode.

I get home and I ask my roommate “Have I gained any weight?” She giggles politely. Maybe it was more like a hysterical laugh. So I go looking for the scale that used to be in my bathroom. Not there. I check in the closet, under the bed, I find it on a top shelf in the garage. I weigh myself. That can’t be. I don’t weigh that much! Do I?  This scale must be broken, that’s why I put it in the garage right?

The next day at work I weigh myself on the certified scale. It gives me a bigger number than my garage scale. This can’t be right. I go to another department and try their scale. It gives me a bigger number yet. I go back to the first scale and reweigh myself. Now the truth hits me. I have put on weight. Not a little, but a lot. The weight gain is getting harder to deny.

Some people get this moment of truth when the judge sentences them. Some when their spouse leaves them or the family doesn’t want them around. For some people, it may be the DUI. Some people get to this realization the second or third time their parole officer sends them to a drug program. Maybe they realize it after the fiftieth job interview that does not result in a job. Could it be me? Do I lack the skills? Do I have a problem?

Whatever it takes eventually those who change get to this point. I am hoping that for you all you need is a little number on a scale. Whatever it is we both have a choice at this point. Change or go on the same course as before.

I could get off the scale at this point and just ignore or accept the fact I am now heavier, maybe even fat, or I can do something about it. I am no longer contemplating. But what will I do next?

Do you have any stories about changes you have made? Want to share them? You can make a comment if you chose.

Check back next blog for the next installment about how people change.

Other posts on this topic can be found at: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Early Action, Late Action, Maintenance, relapse, recovery, triggers, support system, more on support systems, Resiliency

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

8 thoughts on “Stages of change part two – contemplation

  1. Pingback: What are the stages of change? | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Getting some recovery – preventing relapse | counselorssoapbox

  3. Pingback: 4 Stages of recovery | counselorssoapbox

  4. Pingback: Maintenance is a part of change | counselorssoapbox

  5. Pingback: Stages of change – Late Action | counselorssoapbox

  6. Pingback: Stages of change – early action | counselorssoapbox

  7. Pingback: Stages of Change or how do we change? Pre-Contemplation | counselorssoapbox

  8. Pingback: How do people change? Preparation | counselorssoapbox

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