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What Are The 6 Stages of Change & Addiction Recovery Process and Relapse

September 30, 2021

Addiction recovery is a lifelong process marked by ups and downs. It requires a total change in lifestyle which is exactly what makes it so challenging. Your friends or loved ones who have only begun their journey may feel like the sober life that they want is a million steps away.

This isn’t true because the path isn’t linear. It is marked by small wins or stages that indicate that the patient is on the right track to recovery. These stages of change allow the patient to see how far they’ve come on their journey so that they’ll stay motivated to continue. This also allows the rehab center to quantify the patient’s progress. In this way, the necessary changes in treatment may be implemented.

Stages Of Change


During the early stages of recovery, the patient may be in denial about the severity of their issues. They may be unable to grasp the negative impacts of their behavior and the urgency to change. They may also be unable to see the consequences should they choose to live an addict’s lifestyle.

The patient is usually optimistic during this stage. They are not interested in intervention and they are unlikely to listen to their loved ones’ advice to quit. The patients in this category can be further classified into 4 types:

The reluctant precontemplator lacks awareness of their issues and have no urge to change their ways.

The rebellious precontemplator is not interested in changing because they resist authority and being told what to do. The resigned precontemplator is someone who has given up hope that they could ever change their ways. This is due to being overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation. The rationalizing precontemplator assumes that they know what they’re doing and feels that it is justified. As such, they have no compelling reason to change.


This is the stage where the patient finally sits down to confront their issues. This is the first time they will express their desire to commit to a treatment plan. They are more receptive to advice and professional opinions.

However, they are still in the contemplation state which means that they can still back out. In some patients, this stage can last for years before they seek professional help.

Preparation Stage

This is marked by the patient’s resolve to commit to recovery. They are moving to do the necessary things that will help them become sober. During this period, they will make contact with the professionals that can guide them on their journey. This is the process of going over their options and picking one long-term course of action.

Action Stage

This stage is where the real work begins. The first change is in their behavior. This stage is often marked by admittance to a rehabilitation center to perform a detox from their addictive substance. 

In this stage, they will be exposed to a myriad of treatments with the end goal of setting them up for independence. There are numerous personal and group therapy sessions that allow them to face the consequences of their actions head-on. This instills inspiration for them to continue healing.

Some medical treatments are coupled with holistic treatments for maximum effect. The goal is to establish a healthy and sober lifestyle that the patient could sustain. This stage also equips them with mental tools and reframes their cognitive processes so that they will have a strong line of defense against relapses.

Maintenance And Relapse Stage

Nine out of ten recovering patients report at least one relapse during their healing journey. This just proves that progress isn’t linear. There will be setbacks but the best one can do is to minimize these so that it won’t happen again.

The maintenance and relapse prevention stage happen when the patient gets out of in-patient rehab and is transitioning into the real world. Their old world will contain numerous memories of their past which may tempt them to break sobriety. As they walk freely, they will encounter situations like parties or immense stress that may trigger them to go back to their old ways.

These can be prevented by continuing treatment even after the patient has left the rehabilitation center. They may be mandated by their psychiatrist to attend personal and group therapy sessions a few times a week to ensure that they continuously develop their coping mechanisms against addictive substances.

It also helps to assign an accountability buddy. This could be a close friend, a sponsor, or a loved one. The accountability buddy will do regular check-ins. This ensures that the patient is meeting their support group sessions and are staying sober.

Termination Stage

This stage is the ultimate goal of the process. This is when the patient no longer feels tempted or threatened by their old addiction. This stage happens when they feel confident around addictive substances. They are also happier with where their lives are going.

During this stage, there is no more need for them to continue with treatments. They can still attend support groups every now and then. In this stage, they are fully independent and can live normally just like the rest of us.

The entire healing journey is intimidating but all it takes is a single step in the right direction and the rest will follow. If you have a loved one who needs help, we will gladly assist them in achieving a healthy and clean lifestyle.

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