Why do people seek help from a psychotherapist? Psychotherapy helps people in many ways. For some, it is a way to understand themselves better. For others, it helps to find meaning in their lives. Some have a definite problem they want to address (like, “Is my job right for me?), while others have a specific conflict that appears repeatedly in their lives – for example, “Why do I always end up in fights with the people I’m closest to?” Some may want an objective listener who will always look out for their best interests. A large number of people, however, seek therapy in order to come to terms with self-defeating behavior that they know they must change because it is jeopardizing their health, their future plans, or their relationships with friends and families They want to make life changes.
The list of self-defeating behaviors is endless. People want to quit smoking or abusing alcohol and other drugs. Some want to control their weight, exercise more, be more optimistic, quit gambling or watching television so much. Others want less conflict with family members and friends. Many hope to get their anger, anxiety, or sexual behavior under control, quit procrastinating, stop trying to control other people or letting others control them. Frequently they want to stop spending so much money or so much time online – so they seek help from a psychotherapist to make life changes.
Research has identified six major stages in the change process, as described in Changing for Good by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente (see the Recommended Reading box). A key to successful psychotherapy is knowing the stage you are in for the problem you are working on. While these are identified as “stages,” it is important to remember that it is common for a person to move back and forth between stages in terms of their needs at various times. It is not a failure when you need to go back to a previous stage – and, in fact, you may have to go backward before you can go forward again.
The Six Major Stages to Life Changes are:
- 1. Precontemplation Stage
- 2. Contemplation Stage
- 3. Preparation Stage
- 4. Action Stage
- 5. Maintenance Stage
- 6. Termination Stage
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