Most people have an Inner Critic that tries to brow beat or guilt them into change. You may hear that little voice saying “You should . . . “or “You shouldn’t . . . .” I call this shoulding on yourself. It’s not very much fun.

If you feel bad enough, you may make temporary changes, but then fall back in to the old pattern once the self-hate-motivation has worn off. And guess who’s waiting to tell you what a loser you are . . . the Inner Critic again.

This cycle can be very discouraging.

Most people mistakenly believe that change is a simple 2 step process:

1. You make up your mind to change
2. Then you change.

Oops. Not so easy.

Behavioral scientist, John Prochaska, studied 1000s of people who successfully changed an important pattern in their lives. And he found some amazing results

It takes 5 distinct stages to create long lasting, satisfying, sustainable change.

And each stage has a number of tasks. It’s a little like a baby learning to walk or riding a bicycle. So give yourself a break!

Think of something you’d like to change. It might be arguing less with your child, going to the gym, eating more healthy food, cutting down on alcohol or drugs, dropping a few pounds. Notice what you tell yourself below. It will help you identify what stage of change you are in and perhaps help you be a little more gentle with yourself. You can tell the Inner Critic to get off your back.

Pre-Contemplation Stage
? I don't have any problems that need changing.
? I guess I could be better, but there's nothing that I really need to change.
? I have worries just like everyone else. It’s pointless to spend time thinking about them.

Contemplation Stage
? I've been thinking that I might want to change something about myself.
? I have a problem with ____________and I really think I should do something about it.
? People tell me I have a problem, but I don’t think there really anything I could do

Preparation Stage
? I’m talking with people who can help me with _________________
? I have started working on my problems with _______________ but I would like help.
? I have a plan to start one of these days when it feels right.

Action Stage
? Even though I'm not always perfect, I’m working on my problem with _______________
? I’ve been making these changes for the last 3 months and it’s starting to feel pretty good.
? I used to talk about changing; I'm actually doing something about it now.

Maintenance Stage
? I have been successful in working on my problem with _____________ for quite a while now. Sometimes I slip, but overall it’s going well
? I thought once I had resolved my problem with _______________ I would be free of it, but sometimes I still find myself struggling with it.
? I'd like some help so I don’t slip back with the positive changes I’ve made again

Notice what you expect of yourself. Are you working on the most effective tasks?. If you are trying to be in the action stage but have not completed the tasks of the stage before, you may feel frustrated and discouraged. It may be time to revise how fast you think you can make change, so that it is a satisfying and sustainable new part of your life.

The Stages of Change

Pre-contemplation - You probably don’t recognize that there is a problem. People may tell you there is a problem but it’s either not important, or you simply don’t agree Your Tasks: Notice that there are problems or disadvantages to the current state of affairs, and that you have some role in creating the problem.

Contemplation - In this stage you start to see that there is a problem. You wonder if the things you do, think or feel bring about the problem. You start to see that choices you make lead to unwanted consequences. You may believe that you can’t do anything about it, but you see your role. The more you define and explore the problem, the more clarity you get that a solution may be possible. You may develop a little more confidence that a better way is possible. You are contemplating. You can not skip this stage! For some people it can last weeks, months, years and even most of one’s life. You think maybe some day you’ll do something about it.

Your Tasks: You are a little curious but not really serious about doing anything about it yet.

? Become aware of problems associated with behavior.
? Notice ambivalence about changing
? Explore the potential to change.
? Develop some confidence and commitment.
? Considering change in the future, not now
? Start to focus on future not past

Decision Point: Something happens that wakes you up, makes you think. This is an event, not a stage that helps you realize that negatives of the behavior out-weigh the positives. And you are now motivated to take action.

Preparation – When you arrive in the land of Preparation, you clearly see that what you do, think and feel, causes the problem. It isn’t someone else’s fault. You start to see that since you are the cause, you may be part of the solution too. You start to develop confidence. You start thinking about a plan to change.

IMPORTANT! Notice that you are not changing anything yet! But you are getting ready. And like the contemplation stage, you cannot skip over this stage.

Tasks: You’re laying the foundation for changes that you can sustain without Herculean effort. You make a plan you can live with and implement gradually, a step at a time.

? Accept responsibility to change behavior.
? Evaluate and select techniques for behavior.
? Develop a plan made up of small manageable steps
? Build confidence and commitment.
? Have a start date in mind for intended changes
? Resolve ambivalence
? Motivate yourself with pros not the cons

Action – Now you have a concrete plan to make the changes that really matter to you. You’ve got the support, information, time, money and energy to change and all of a sudden it seems much more easy. You’ve broken your plan into manageable steps. And you take that first steps on your new improved life.

Tasks: You realized you’ve changed, and it wasn’t so hard after all. You enjoy the benefits.

? Engage in self-directed change that is sustainable because it has some immediate rewards
? Gain new insights and develops new skills.
? Consciously choose new behavior.
? Learn to recognize and redirect unwanted behavior
? Have sustained positive changes for 3 - 6 months
? Get help and support to sustain positive motivation

Maintenance - In this stage, you have successfully made your changes, and are enjoying the benefits. You’ve had a few slips, and you practice how to get back to a new improved plan that works better each time you revise it. You know your danger zones and how to either avoid them or maneuver through them. You have help and support when you need it. The change seems to sustain itself, simply because you feel better and are more happy.


? Master the ability to sustain new behavior with minimum effort as a simple part of every day life
? Be alert to high-risk situations and have a plan to manage them
? Focus is on lapse prevention.
? You have changed behavior for at least 6 months
? Adopt a new self-image consistent with desired behavior and lifestyle.
? Feel confident and enjoy the sense of mastery
? Enjoy a healthier and happier life.

SoulCollage® : Another tool to speed up the change process

What is SoulCollage?

On the surface, SoulCollage is a fun collage process that anyone can do. On a deeper level, when you work with imagery through journaling and psychotherapy, it provides you direct access to your unconscious, both the wise and the shadowy parts that seldom have a clear voice in your every day lives.

Everyone has parts you see, and parts you don’t see. You notice this when you say something brilliant that dazzles you with its clarity and insight. Or it can be that slip of the tongue that makes you cringe with embarrassment as it slips past your editor.
The territory between your conscious and unconscious minds may be the source of many of your problems or limitations, and it may hold buried treasure. In SoulCollage both the conscious and unconscious take part in card making. And these collages appear simple, when you look you’ll find deeper meaning when you invite the cards to speak up.

SoulCollage makes it easier to find these parts, listen to them, and better yet, use them to be more creative, resourceful and think-out-side-of-the-box problem solvers

As a tool to explore the psyche, we can consult the different parts of ourselves, like having a council meeting. SoulCollage helps us include all these parts, bring them to the table, and like a compassionate CEO, invite them to speak up but not run the board.

Using SoulCollage can speed up your progress by working with the parts of you that resists change: Shadow Material. Imagine finding the culprit inside who thinks you’ll never succeed. Or the part who believes changes is impossible. Or the part who’s trying to solve a different concern, using the “problem behavior.”

You may be mistaking yourself for these different points of view inside you. Meeting the “story” that each card tells with compassion can accelerate your progress through the stages of change.

SoulCollage can also improve your self-confidence and hope when you meet the wise and healthy parts of you. Imagine meeting the One who is the engine of change, ready to get to work, filled with enthusiasm and confidence. Yes this part still lives in you!

It might even be fun!

Contact me to set up a consultation or 503-224-3318

Author's Bio: 

My passion for helping people started in 1985 when I began offering counseling professionally. In the last 20 plus years I have grown to love this work more each year.

My range and depth of training and experience may be unique. Not only do I have over 25,000 hours in face to face work with clients, I have also worked in the business world in international trade as well as a University research director and as a professional artist and teacher.

But what really matters is that I practice what I teach, so I know it works.


* Private Practice psychotherapist since 1985
* Outpatient psychotherapist at Providence St. Vincent Hospital since 2000
* Milieu manager at Legacy Children's Hospital Eating Disorder Unit
* Other group and individual therapy experience includes: Programa Hispano, YWCA Counseling, Portland Alternative Health Center, Northwest Treatment Services

Group Therapy Experience. Providence Hospital; Legacy Children's Hospital, Programa Hispano, Portland Alternative Health Center, Northwest Treatment; Women's Support Group for 7 years, Earth School Institute. Over the span of my career, I have provided over 10,000 face to face hours of group therapy.