Motivational Interviewing And Getting Back To Maintenance

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The stages of change in motivational interviewing are:


Whether a therapist was helping you along or not, if you’ve ever made an important life change in your life where you either wanted to add a desirable behavior to your routine (like frequent exercise) or cut out an undesirable behavior from your routine (like excessive alcohol consumption), you went through these stages of change before finally landing on maintenance where your new way of being became consistent and sustained.

But, as you’re surely aware from your own life, staying at that stage of maintenance is not as easy as it seems. What is easy is to revert back into the old, hardwired habits. As we look over the stages of change we see it’s a long, arduous process to get from pre-contemplation to maintenance. And it dawns on us that while backsliding from maintenance should takes us into the action stage, where it’s an easy recommitment to once again move into maintenance, what actually usually ends up happening is that we circle back around to pre-contemplation! It’s kind of like that line from Modest Mouse, “The universe is shaped exactly like the earth if you go straight long enough you’ll end up where you were.”

The new life project is thrown to the curb and basically forgotten, it slides back down into the subconscious, and those old, easy, customary ways of being take over once again, eradicating all that hard work put in during contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance (or what we might call sustained action).

To keep that from happening you’ve got to be aware going in that making it to maintenance is no guarantee of staying at maintenance. Maintenance is not a time for cruise control thinking but a time to stay vigilant, to continue to remind yourself of your intention and to do what you need to do to bolster your commitment. And if you do sense yourself starting to let go that’s the time to recommit, to look back over the earlier stages and bring into conscious awareness all the hard won reasoning behind your decision to make your important life change. Then put that plan back into place, set a firm, non-non-negotiatble time and date for jumping back into action, and commit to making that action consistent once again.