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Michael Miller
Phone:  (216) 520-5969
Fax:      (216) 520-5098

6133 Rockside Rd. 
Suite 207
Independence, OH  44131

30400 Detroit Rd. 
Suite 301
Westlake, OH  44145

It has been well stated that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over... and expecting different results!”

People go through several steps while attempting to implement changes in their lives, be it starting an exercise program, quitting smoking, etc.  The first step is called Precontemplative stage.  A person does not see a problem, ex. “Everyone has arguments,” “I don't drink anymore than anyone else,” etc. This is addressed by clarifying issues and gently (generally) using confrontation. 

The second step is called the Contemplative stage, i.e., “Maybe I DO have a problem,” “I know I need to eat healthier, but I'm too busy to do so,” etc.  At this stage, one helps the other see the advantages of change and begin to make a change plan and/or problem solve on dealing with possible impediments to the plan.

The third step is called the Change stage.  This is when the change plan is implemented, i.e., the diet is started, the person starts counseling, etc. 

Often, another step, Relapse occurs. This is when the person slacks off from the change plan, has a slip with their drinking, etc.  This is VERY common, regardless of the issue being addressed.  The thing to do is either resume the change plan and/or make modifications to the plan so it will be more successful.

Once the change is made, the next step is the Maintenance stage.  This may be continuing to go to the gym, continuing self-help group participation, etc.

Habit is a very large part of our dysfunctional thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  By habit, I mean how we react to situations automatically without consciously thinking about the triggering thought, feeling, etc.  Thus, if we want to make a change, we need to increase our awareness of such triggers and responses.  When you know what to look for, then you make a commitment to yourself to monitor for those triggers and reactions.  For example, if being called a name usually provokes an angry response, you monitor for provocations and instead of automatically reacting in an angry way, as you frequently have, you implement your change plan, whether it is to walk away, tell yourself you will not allow yourself to become upset, etc. 

It is very helpful to have the change plan written down and to review them daily, if not more often. For example, you may write, "Today, I will do my best to NOT allow others to get me to lose my temper" or "Today, I will try to keep most of my thoughts in the present and not let my tendency to catastrophize rule my day."  When you fall short of your goal, it is imperative to look at the situation and play Monday morning quarterback and try to figure out what you might have forgotten to do, what didn't work, and/or what you might do differently in the future.

For more information about the stages of change, check out Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward (2010) by Norcross, Prochaska, & Diclemente.

CHANGE REQUIRES WORK!!!!  Change does not occur just because we want it.  We need to continue to work to change our thoughts, behaviors, and/or habits if we want a different outcome.  Many may try something once or a few times and conclude, "It doesn't work! There is no reason to continue trying!"  This is especially true when depression is a significant factor.  One would not expect to be able to fluently play a musical instrument after one lesson.  Likewise, change generally requires practice.  One function of a counselor is usually to serve as a coach to assist learning healthier behaviors, just as a music teacher can help learn an instrument, or a coach helping improve athletic abilities.  When two work cooperatively, change can generally be achieved more easily and quickly. However, many people don't realize that changing their own behavior often results in changes in others' behavior.  Look at your own efforts and identify what you have repeatedly tried without success. Initiate new behaviors.

Are changes in YOUR life advantageous or even necessary?  A good place to begin is looking at your overall lifestyle.  Are you eating nutritious food?  Exercising?  Are you or anyone else concerned about your working too much?  Concerned about your drinking, recreational drug use, or other potentially out of control behaviors?  Are you satisfied with your relationships?  Do you feel you have adequate balance in your life?  We often know what we “should” change.  If your lifestyle choices are poor, how is that you continue to make the choices you do?  If you are unhappy with your answers to these questions, develop a plan to begin to establish healthier thoughts, behaviors, and patterns.

Remember, if something works, then do more of it; if something doesn't work, try something else.

                            Copyright © 2008 - 2012.   Michael Miller.   All rights reserved.

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