Understanding Levels of Motivation for Change (Part 1 of 3)

Levels of Motivation for Change

At the beginning of your journey through a G4 curriculum, we would invite you to take a journey with me through Sam’s story of recovery. As you read Sam’s story, insert your struggle in for theirs. Wherever you see struggle, insert the situation in your life that has become life-dominating. In each of the paragraphs there should be distinct shifts in behavior and belief along a journey of recovery. As you read, attempt to note the key features at each step, noting the differences from the previous paragraph.


(P1) Sam struggles with (insert your struggle here). Currently, Sam is blind to the situation and just how bad it has gotten. As people have mentioned the (struggle) to Sam, he/she has become increasingly defensive and abrasive, clearly not believing that there is a problem. Whenever things have become too personal or real Sam has begun destroying relationships or simply cutting people out. Refusing to accept people as being helpful instead choosing to believe that they are speaking lies.

(P2) As the impact of Sam’s struggle begin to mount Sam begins to see that the (struggle) has become disruptive. In small ways, what the (struggle) was once providing, it is no longer able to provide because it has become all-consuming and has invaded all other areas of life. Areas of life that were previously unaffected have become problem areas. Sam is sometimes willing to admit that perhaps some things in life should be different. When people suggest that change might be needed Sam is less likely to be dismissive or offended but more open to trying to understand what change would entail and if it would be worth it.

(P3) At this point, Sam has begun to actively explore change and there is beginning to be an understanding of what will have to change. Sam is weighing the pros and cons of change and has decided that the (struggle) must stop. Discussions have started to be had about the realness of the problem. Understanding the realness of the struggle, strategies are thought of and achievable goals are set. Sam’s closest family and friends have been brought in to be a part of a support system and to ensure that someone is there to lean on when things get difficult. Sam and those on Sam’s team have begun to look for solutions and outside sources of help including counseling, support groups (this is probably the point where you initially came to or fully committed to G4), and other resources.

(P4) After exploring ideas for change and relying on the support system, Sam has begun to work some of the proposed strategies. Learning to methodically incorporate lifestyle changes into the everyday is the goal. Starting with small changes Sam has begun to understand what it is to see progress. Sam has begun to apply the skills that have been learned in counseling and groups to life and work the strategy that has been laid out. Sam is making progress but can get frustrated with some of the setbacks that seem to continue to get in the way of progress; however, understands that while setbacks happen progress is made if steps forward are still being made.

(P5) Sam has been able to see continued progress. The progress has become sustainable with fewer and fewer setbacks. The life changes have become a lifestyle for Sam. It’s possible for those in Sam’s life to see the dramatic change that has happened. Those relationships and friends that Sam damaged and walked away from while dealing with the (struggle) have begun to be restored and forgiveness has been sought and given in many of those relationships.

Given that case study, let’s look at how it is that Sam walked through each level of motivation as they have been described by Carlo DiClemente’s book Addiction and Change which can speak to many pervasive struggles; not just addictions. As you read through the levels of motivation reflect on what it looked like in Sam’s story and how it might relate to you in your story.

Pre-contemplation (P1): This level of motivation is marked by being either unwilling to accept the need for change or lacking the desire to change. A key marker of this of this stage would be resistance to change.

Contemplation (P2): This level of motivation is marked by a feeling of ambivalence. This is evident by the conflicting emotions that will arise as you consider change. The pull between desire for change and the comfort of what is known. The most important question becomes, “Is it worth it?”

At this point, there is definite transition. You have reached a decisional balance. “I know that change is needed and I am committed to the process.

Preparation (P3): This phase is marked by active learning. You must be willing to explore the options that are presented to you. You will begin to develop plans that will help in the action phase. Assessing potential setbacks and obstacles that might impede change.

Action (P4): At this point in the journey, planning becomes action. You will begin to enact the plan that you have prepared, understanding that there will be both progress and regression with a general direction of forward movement. Trying new methods will be essential when other methods fail.

Maintenance (P5): Life change has become more permanent. This stage is marked by perseverance in the use of learned skills for change and returning to enjoyment of life not dominated by your struggle. Hobbies and relationships will be reestablished and reengaged as you pursue joy.

Here at G4 our desire is that you would be willing to answer three questions for your area of struggle:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. When was your highest level of motivation?
  3. Based on your current level of motivation, what is your next step?

Our groups are open to people at all levels and we would like to help you progress through those levels as you walk your journey. We understand that as you look at your journey you may feel like you’re at a place where you see that change might be helpful but you might not be sure that it’s worth it. Or perhaps, you feel ready for change but you are not sure you are ready to put a plan into action just yet. You’re at a place of being ready, yet not quite ready.

We would ask that you commit yourself to asking those hard questions and allowing us to be there to walk this journey with you. Commit to being in one of the G4 groups for a period of six weeks to give yourself time to understand more about what we can offer and how we can help you answer those questions.

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