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Theories & Approaches

All Theories & Approaches

The Relevance of the Stages of Change Model

The Stages of Change model is relevant to a wide variety of health promotion programs because it literally moves the goalposts. In the past, health educators and others seeking behavior change measured their success (and their clients' successes) only in terms of whether or not the behavior changed. Because behavior change is complex and difficult, this attitude set up both program designers and their intended beneficiaries for failure.

By exploring and illuminating the nuances of the change process, the Stages of Change model gives us more opportunities to intervene successfully, and, more importantly, to succeed. If a program's clients are mainly precontemplators, then an appropriate intervention might be one that helps raise their awareness of the relative pros and cons of changing behavior rather than one that focuses on the preparation or action stages of the change process.

Likewise, an intervention targeting people in the preparation and action stages would have more success recruiting people into a program. In this way, resources are matched to the right audience — and to that audience's stage of readiness for change. Otherwise, scarce resources can be wasted (with messages truly falling on deaf ears), and both sides are likely to experience frustration and defeat.

When sexuality educators try to motivate young people to adopt safer sex behaviors, an awareness of stages of change, its processes, and the mechanics of decisional balance (weighing pros and cons) can be critical. The notion that relapse is not necessarily a failure is also important. For example, according to Stages of Change, a young person who begins using a condom some of the time (but has not yet achieved a goal of using condoms all of the time) is still a success because he or she has taken an action and is moving towards a positive goal.

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