yes, therapy helps!
The Transteoric Model of the Change of Prochaska and Diclemente

The Transteoric Model of the Change of Prochaska and Diclemente

April 2, 2024

Change is an individual and personal process, and nobody can change another person if they do not want to change . That is why coaching has the complex mission of empowering people to be aware of their own ability to achieve their goals and achieve positive and lasting changes in their lives.

For several decades, a theoretical model of change has been applied in many areas (addictions, unhealthy lifestyle changes, etc.) to help understand why individuals often fail despite wanting to implement a change in his life.

The process of personal change seen from the Psychology

There has been little work in the literature in relation to specific change in the field of coaching, but a psychotherapeutic theory has been very effective in this aspect, because it proposes not only a description of the phases or stages of change, but also provides a favorable framework the correct intervention. This theory was proposed by James Prochaska (in the image) and Carlo Diclemente and receives the name of Transheoretical Model of Change .

Said model explains the phases that a person needs to overcome in the process of changing problematic behavior (or behavior that is intended to change) to one that is not, considering motivation as an important factor in this change, and assigning the subject an active role, as it is conceived as the main actor in their behavior change.

The model also takes into account other variables besides the motivation, which in the opinion of the authors influence the behavior change. These elements are: the stages of change, the process of change, the decisional balance (pros and cons) and self-confidence (or self-efficacy).

Since any personal change requires commitment, time, energy and clear and realistic strategies, it is important to recognize that this process can involve difficulties. This theory warns that it is likely to suffer relapses and return to previous stages . Therefore, it provides hope for individuals, since accepting failures as normal affects positively the perception of self-confidence (self-efficacy).

Coaches should make clients aware of this aspect of the theory, since it is a useful tool to empower them in the face of change.

The stages of the exchange model of Prochaska and Diclemente

This model gives us the opportunity to understand that human development is not linear but rather circular and that human beings can go through different phases, and even stagnate and back on the path of change.

The different stages of the Prochaska and Diclemente model are shown below, and for the best understanding, we will use as an example an individual who wants to start physical exercise to improve their health and leave behind the sedentary life to which they were accustomed:

  • Precontemplation : at this stage the person is not aware of having a problem, and there are often defense mechanisms such as denial or rationalization. In our example, the individual would not be aware of the negative effects of a sedentary life or would repeat himself "of something you have to die".
  • Contemplation : in this phase the person realizes that he has a problem, begins to look at the pros and cons of his situation, but has not yet made the decision to do something. In our example, it would be someone who is aware that sedentary life causes many health problems, but has not made the decision to join a gym or repeats "that you will sign up."
  • Preparation : the person has already made the decision to do something about it and starts taking some small steps. In our example it would be a person who goes to buy sports clothes or enrolls in the municipal pool.
  • Action : the person already takes the necessary steps, without excuses, or delays. In our example the person begins to exercise physically.
  • Maintenance : the new behavior is established, it starts to be a new habit. In our example, the person has been frequently swimming or practicing running for more than six months.

Maintenance phase

In the maintenance phase, the person can move to the "termination" phase in which the new habit is already solid and it is difficult to leave it, since it is part of his life; or it may fall (although it may fall at any stage), but never going back to the "pre-contemplation" stage.


In case of relapse, the person can:

  • Re-engage in change, recognize your progress, learn from experience and try not to make the same mistake again.
  • See the relapse as a failure and stagnate forever without changing.

Therefore, in case of relapse the coach must make the client see that he is not a failure and should encourage him to continue with the change.

The phases and the levels of change

This dimension of the Transteoric Model of Prochaska and Diclemente tells us what changes are needed to abandon problematic behavior and tell us the content of this change . All behavior is given a context and conditioned by certain environmental factors.

The different conditioning factors are organized into five interrelated levels, over which the coach intervenes in a hierarchical order, from superficial to deeper. Being related, the change of one level can cause a change in another and it is also possible that intervention at all levels is not necessary, since not all levels have to affect the behavior that is intended to change.

The five levels of change are:

  • Symptom / situation (pattern of harmful habits, symptoms, etc.).
  • Mismatched cognitions (expectations, beliefs, self-assessments, etc.).
  • Current interpersonal conflicts (dyadic interactions, hostility, assertiveness, etc.).
  • Systemic / family conflicts (family of origin, legal problems, social support network, employment, etc.).
  • Intrapersonal conflicts (self-esteem, self-concept, personality, etc.).

Coaching applied to the processes of personal change

Normally the intervention begins at the most superficial level, and as it progresses, it is possible to intervene on deeper levels . The reasons why the intervention is usually initiated in the most superficial situation are:

  • Change tends to happen more easily at this more manifest and observable level.
  • This level generally represents the main reason for attending the coaching session.
  • Since the level is the most conscious and current, the degree of interference necessary for an evaluation and intervention is less.
  • Since these levels are not independent, the change in one of them probably causes changes in others.

Decision balance

The decisional balance it is the relative weight between the pros and cons of changing behavior, which each individual assigns in their process of awareness. The model predicts that for individuals in the pre-contemplation stage, the counter-changes will be more evident than the pros and that this decisional balance will gradually be reverberated as individuals move through the rest of the stages.

For individuals in the action and maintenance stages, the pros of change will be more important than the cons .

Another key: Self-efficacy

The Self-efficacy they are the judgments and beliefs that a person possesses on his capacities to execute successfully a certain task and, therefore, directs the course of his action. It helps to face different difficult situations, without having relapses. Therefore, it is positive to face the various problematic situations that may arise during the process of change and is positive to maintain the desired behavior.

The model predicts that self-efficacy will increase as individuals move through the stages of change .

If you want to know more about the concept of self-efficacy, we invite you to read the following post:

"The Self-efficacy of Albert Bandura: do you believe in yourself?"

Change strategies

Within the Transtheoretical Model of Change, the stages are useful to help place the client at a certain point . However, little would be achieved by knowing this and not knowing the strategies that could be implemented to encourage the subject to move forward.

The processes of change are the activities that encourage the individual to move towards a new stage, but it must be mentioned that they are not restricted to coaching. In fact, this theory comes from psychotherapy, because this model is the result of a comparative analysis of theories that led psychological therapy and behavioral change in the 1980s.

As a result of the work, Prochaska identified 10 processes that occur in subjects who are changing their behavior , like the "increase of conscience" coming from the Freudian tradition, the "contingency management" of Skinner's behaviorism, and the establishment of "help relationships" by the humanist Carl Rogers.

Processes linked to change

The processes shown below characterize people in stages of change, and each one works better at a certain stage:

  • Increased awareness It has to do with individual efforts in the search for information and their corresponding understanding in relation to a specific problem.
  • Re-evaluation of the environment : it is an evaluation by the subject of the behavior to be changed and its effect on the interpersonal behavior and on the people close to him. Recognition of the benefits for these relationships derived from the modification of the behavior.
  • Dramatic relief : Experimentation and expression of emotional relationships caused by the observation and / or warning of the negative aspects associated with behavior modify.
  • Self appraisal : Affective and cognitive assessment of the impact of the behavior to change in the values ​​and self-concept of the individual. Recognition of the benefits that behavior change represents for your life.
  • Social liberation : awareness, availability and acceptance by the subject of alternatives.
  • Counter-conditioning : it is the replacement of alternative behaviors to the behavior to change.
  • Help relationships : is the use of social support to facilitate the change.
  • Administration of reinforcements : change the structure that supports the problem.
  • Self-liberation : commitment of the individual to change behavior, including the idea that one owns their change
  • Stimulus control : it is the control of situations and the avoidance of situations that initiate unwanted behavior.

Strategies applied to coaching

The intervention that the person needs to have an effective change depends on the stage in which he is. At each stage there are specific interventions and techniques that have a greater impact to help the person move on to the next stages of behavior change. Here are some strategies that the coach can use in each phase:


  • When the client is not aware of the negative effects of the change, it is necessary to provide appropriate information about the benefits of the change, that is, why making the change can be beneficial for the person. It is important that the information be provided in a non-authoritative manner.


  • Help visualize arguments for and against change.
  • Favor reflection on the different options for change and the positive effect of them.
  • Encourage the consideration of the first steps to start making the change, in a rational and realistic way.


  • Jointly plan the change carefully, before making decisions viscerally.
  • Break the action plan into achievable objectives.
  • Use a commitment contract with the change.
  • Help think about ways to continue with the action plan.


  • Follow the plan, monitor progress.
  • Reward and congratulate for the successes achieved (even the smallest).
  • Remember the benefits that will occur if the objectives are achieved.
  • Help identify the benefits when they happen.
  • Help the client stay in a state of motivation.
  • Help him learn things that do not go as expected.


  • Maintain and review the plans until you are absolutely sure that they are no longer needed.
  • In case of relapse, try not to return to the starting point. Instead, help recognize progress and favors the learning of failures so that they do not happen again.
  • Help reflect on whether it is possible to help others make positive changes based on the experience of change.

In conclusion

From this perspective, the behavioral change is explained from its stages (the when), the processes (the how) and the levels (the what) . Attention is also paid to self-efficacy and motivation, understanding that the latter varies depending on the stage in which the person is, and understanding that this is mediated by multiple aspects of the subject (the desire to avoid failure or maintain control of his life), which make the motivation must be approached from the global point of view, understanding it as a process.

In coaching, This model of intervention can be useful, because it provides knowledge about the stage in which the coachee is located and provides information on the processes of change suitable for each stage, on the level or levels affected. Therefore, it produces a progressive change in the person who intends to change, first addressing the most superficial aspects, to progressively deal with the deepest aspects.

To know at what stage the individual is there are different questionnaires that provide this information, but the coach can use verbal questions with the same purpose.

A theory that gives the coach tools

Finally, in this theory there are also some aspects that are of great importance for the coach:

  • The coach should not treat all people as if they were in the action stage.
  • It is more likely that people who are in the action phase achieve better and faster results than those who are in contemplation or preparation.
  • The coach should facilitate the passage of introspection and action.
  • The coach must anticipate the relapses, and make the client understand that they are part of the change.
  • The coach must encourage self-regulation of action plans by the coachee.

The Grinch - Official Trailer [HD] (April 2024).

Similar Articles