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what is the "process" of change?

When people used to say "trust the process" or it's "about the journey not the destination" I would literally CRINGE.

First of all, I'm an Aries and I like to get things DONE. Secondly, in our Western Culture we don't celebrate the process, only the outcomes. The stories of struggles, starts and stops, and long roads to success are hardly normalized and an occasional inspirational story in our social media feeds.

So when I learned about Motivational Interviewing and the "Stages of Change" model in college, it rocked my world. I finally began to understand what the process of change is, that change happens LONG before any external, visible, or measurable outcome, and that it's not a linear process.

Initially developed for substance abuse treatment, these stages can be applied to any kind of change you're trying to make in life. Please note these are not linear, that we can be at different stages in different areas of our lives, and that there are things we can do to intentionally progress ourselves through change.

The stages are: precontemplative, contemplative, preparation, action, maintenance, recycle.


"What's the Problem?"

In this stage a person is "problem unaware." There may or may not be measurable consequences, a visible pattern of less than optimal functioning, people in their lives trying to point out the problem. . . but a person does not perceive the pattern or behavior as problematic.


"This may need to change"

In this stage a something has happened externally and/or internally to lead a person to become aware that there is a problem with their behaviors, patterns, approaches, lifestyle choices, etc. The person is aware the current way of being is not serving them but unsure what to do.


"What Can I Do About It?" In this stage a person is actively researching what to do about the issue. They may be googling the problem, getting on reddit, IG, Tik Tok, reading self help books, etc. of experts or other people who have overcome the problem to gain more understanding and make a plan.


Doing the thing

In this stage a person is starting therapy, seeing their doctor, enrolling in college, setting boundaries, going to a self help group, (for example) and has initiated the actual steps & implementation it ACTUALLY takes to change. The person may be starting to envision themselves as someone who lives without the problem and has hope.


Keep on Growing

In this stage a person is continuing to take action in maintaining the change. They may have changed external situations, routines, lifestyle, support systems, etc. to assist the change. They have internalized a new identity as a survivor, healing, a warrior; or more specifically a college student, someone in healthy relationships, a vegan, etc. What's needed for maintenance evolves over time.

Recycle/Relapse/Spiralic Healing

New Lessons

Most of us will "relapse" when making change and will do so many times; whether it be people pleasing, getting out of unhealthy relationships, letting go of food substances that we're not in a healthy relationship with, etc. We may cycle back to any of the prior stages. This does not mean we've failed. In a spiralic healing mentality these moments become lessons to grow from, integrate, and deepen our healing journey.

I help clients who have been in preparation for awhile and are ready to step into action; or may have been in action (going to therapy, reading self help books, etc) for YEARS but haven't been able to make the changes in their relationships & lives they're hoping for. If you're ready for a deep level of support-reach out to me at

And if you want more on the stages of change, check out this full workshop HERE!

Thanks for checking out my blog today. Sending you lots of love and compassion for wherever you are in your healing journey!


Cassandra Solano, MSW

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