The Action Stage
The Action, according to Prochaska et. al.,
is the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences, and/or environment to overcome problems (p. 144).
Williams and Menendez comment that in this stage the client begins to try new things and practice new behaviors (p. 76). In continuing the above example, the client may begin to make better food choices altogether, or perhaps slowly make changes, or simply cut down their portion sizes. Finally, Prochaska et. al. notes that the Action stage requires a fair amount of commitment, time, and energy (p. 144).
The Maintenance Stage
In the Maintenance stage, clients have essentially adopted the change and new habits, and have integrated any such habits and change to their lifestyle in a manner that is sustainable longterm (Williams and Menendez, p. 76). Progress or change at this point is maintained, provided things are going well (Bonham-Carter, p. 2), and work is done to keep and progress that has been achieved and prevent relapse (Prochaska et. al., p. 144).
The Termination Stage
In this last stage of Prochaska’s model, the client no longer needs a systematic or programmatic approach to change. According to Williams and Menendez,
The new behavior has become a natural part of the person’s life, and it happens without much thought on the part of the person (p. 77).
In this respect, the client has, in a sense, climbed the mountain, enduring the hardships and mishaps of change, and has reached the top, which could be characterized as a level plain. The client is no longer striving to make the change as the habits are instilled and now a part of the client’s life.
The Lapse Stage
While Termination tends to be considered the final stage in Prochaska’s model, at times clients may slip into the Lapse (also called Relapse) stage. According to Bonham-Carter, in this stage, the client slips up or relapses back into the behavior they have been attempting to change (p. 2). Moore and Tschannen-Moran (2010) explains that it is important to make the distinction between lapse and relapse (p. 36). Moore states,
A lapse is a single slip in a desired behavior that may or may not lead to a relapse. Whether a lapse becomes a relapse depends on the individual’s response to lapses, their perceived loss of control, and their social network (p. 36).
It is at this point that the client has a choice. Bonham-Carter explains that clients can both
reinstate the process of change and discover what can be learned from the experience of lapse, or the client can give up, believing that their lapse is permanent (p. 2).
Coaching in the Stages of Change
A clear understanding of Prochaska’s model of change provides the field of coaching with a useful tool in which to help client’s progress. It is important to understand that a client may be, at one time, in several different stages. Clients typically have several different goals they are working on, and it would be highly unusual if the client progressed through all stages at the same time for each goal. Therefore, flexibility is required on the part of the coach, and the ability to “dance in the moment”, both in the session, and in the coaching relationship overall. The remainder of this paper will discuss different ways that Prochaska’s model can be applied to the field of coaching. Prochaska’s model of change is a framework with which gives coaches insight as to where a client may be in the process of change. With a better understanding of where client’s are, coaches can help client’s become aware of change, aid the client in determining specific habits to help fuel the change, create support and accountability structure to assist the client in taking action, and encouraging the client through the whole process.
Coaching in the Pre-contemplation Stage
During Prochaska’s Pre-contemplation stage, clients are unaware of the need to make changes. According to Williams and Menendez, it is highly unlikely for a coach to find a client in the Pre-contemplation stage (p. 74). Often clients come to a coach because they are aware of changes that need to be made, and need assistance in designing a plan and taking action. However, if a client is in the Pre-contemplation stage, Williams and Menendez explain that
the initial exploration and assessment phases of coaching can be critical (p. 74).
During this exploration and assessment phase, coaches could potentially help the client to identify different behaviors that need change. For example, the Wheel of Life tool, used by many different coaches, may help the client realize that there are significant imbalances in their life, from which they may be able to identify specific areas that need change.
Coaching in the Contemplation Stage
When clients are in the Contemplation stage, Williams and Menendez comment that coaches have the opportunity to help clients discover what habits, patterns, and behaviors are working for them, and which are working against them (p. 75). According to Moore and Tschannen-Moran, the goal for the coach in this stage is to help the client move forward by aiding them in discovering strengths, assisting the client in discovering motivation, and help the client connect the outcome of the change to their values (p. 35). The coach can help the client weigh the pros and cons, dig to see what ideas the client has about what is necessary to make the change, and help the client envision what will be required to sustain the change (Williams & Menedez, p. 75). Ultimately, the contemplation stage is about creating awareness for the client.