Change is good, yet difficult to achieve. Dr. James Prochaska helped to identify a model of change to ultimately help psychologists and therapists assist clients through the change process. Prochaska’s model of change can also be applied to the field of coaching. This paper presents a succinct overview of Prochaska’s model of change, followed by a brief discussion of its application to coaching.
Coaching, by simple definition, is helping a client get from where they are to where they want to be (Collins, 2009, pp. 13-14). In this process of movement, some sort of change is often required; therefore, in coaching, be it life, health, executive, or any other niche of coaching, one of the primary aims is to facilitate change in the client. Clients will often seek out a coach with the intent of changing a habit or behavior in order to accomplish their goals or objectives, and move forward in life. It is important for the coach to be well versed in different models of change in order to better understand where the client is in the process, and ways to help the client. Williams and Menendez (2007) state,
When coaches are ignorant of human developmental issues, they miss great opportunities for zeroing in on what may be the source of the client’s drive toward change (p. 73).
Furthermore, Williams and Menendez claim that when coaches have a more thorough understanding of models of change, they will be better equipped to meet the needs of the client wherever the client is at in life (p. 73).
While many models of change exist in the field of psychology and psychotherapy, this research paper will focus on Dr. James Prochaska’s transtheoretical model of change and different applications the model has in the field of coaching. While Prochaska’s model of change is research-based and originally arose from the field of addictions counseling, Prochaska’s model can be effectively applied and used in the field of coaching. This paper will begin by providing an introduction to Prochaska’s model and the different stages, and then discuss how the different stages of Prochaska’s model can be applied to coaching.
Prochaska’s Model of Change
Prochaska identified five different stages of change that clients typically move through, including Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance (Prochaska et. al., 2011, p. 144). Prochaska also identified two additional stages, Termination and Lapse, which support the model and are often encountered in the change process. The following provides a brief overview of each of the stages.
The Pre-contemplation Stage
The Pre-contemplation stage, in a sense, is a precursor to the actual model (Bonham-Carter, 2007, p. 2). In the Pre-contemplation stage, change is not on the client’s mind and, according to Prochaska et. al.,
there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future (p. 144).
Furthermore, Williams and Menendez explain that clients may simply not be aware of the need for change from their current routine, patterns, or behavior (p. 74).
The Contemplation Stage
The Contemplation, according to Prochaska et. al., is characterized by awareness of a problem, along with some thought or contemplation about overcoming the problem (p. 144). Bonham-Carter states,
Here the client is in ambivalence – i.e. they can see some benefit in changing but also are aware of or experiencing the benefits of not changing… (p. 2).
Clients in this stage may simply not know what they need to do in order to change (Williams and Menendez, p. 75). Ultimately, clients are aware of the need to change but have not made a commitment to action.
The Preparation Stage
The Preparation stage (also called the Decision stage) begins when the client makes a decision to change and starts making preparations to take action. Williams and Menendez explain that clients may begin
gathering information, assembling resources, checkout out possibilities, etc. (p. 76).
According to Bonham-Carter, this stage often is triggered by a specific event, which in turn boosts the client’s motivation (p. 2). For example, the occurrence of a close friend or family member experiencing a heart attack may prompt a client to start making specific dietary changes in their own life.