The Stages of Change
When you look for therapy, you are looking for change. This could be change in how you feel about yourself or perhaps a change in what’s happening in your relationships. Whilst some people are clear about what they want to be different, others may find it harder to pinpoint: they just know something doesn’t feel right. Whatever our situation, we all sit somewhere within the stages of change:
With change being so present in therapy, thinking about the stages of change and where a client may sit within it at any one time can be a helpful guide in therapy.
In his book, Changing for Good, James Prochaska outlines six stages of change. They are as follows:
Pre-contemplation (What problem? I don’t know what you’re talking about!) In which people don’t want to admit that they have a problem and even avoid any consideration of the subject. Some people stay in this stage of change for a long time and often experience growing problems. This difficult stage is often called “denial”.
Contemplation (I want to change . . but then, I don’t) Which is probably where you are if you have read this far. You may well have mixed emotions about either changing or doing nothing about the problem. Here you at least become aware of your problems, struggle to understand them and even may think seriously about solving them.
Preparation (I know I have to, but how?) Here is where you start to make decisions. While some people become chronic contemplators and substitute more and more analysis for action, others will make decisions and prepare for them. At this stage, your personal outlook will start to reach more toward your future and less toward your past.
Action(Now I’ve got the bull by the horns!) OK, this is where you take the plunge! But there is no “magic bullet”, and there is no easy way to change. At this point you are very much on your own. You need all the helping relationships you can get, but be prepared, you may even get some disapproval from others, and experience some anxiety and anger. Just review all the things you have established in your contemplation and preparation stages and stick to them.
Maintenance (Got to stay with it!) You have considered and planned and decided to change your life and leave part of it behind. Yet it can be really difficult to stick with the changes you have made. Therefore this stage needs plans and goals like all the others, you treat lapsing back into familiar patterns as just a temporary delay in forward progress and something that you can learn from. And you have the anchor of all your well-planned contemplation and preparation to rely on.
Termination One day you will be able to look back and feel really good about your courage and determination in making the changes in your life.
Negotiating the Screen Time Minefield
Perhaps one of the biggest parenting challenges of the 21st century, it's hard to escape the fears around the amount of screen time children have and the possible impact of this in the future.
Given its ever increasing and changing presence in our lives, it can be really difficult for parents to know how to handle their children’s digital lives. Here are some of my tips for a happier relationship with tech in your home:
- Limit screen time. There's varying advice on the amount of appropriate screen time for different ages, though the Changing for Good (AAP) suggests 1-2 hours of tech a day is enough for children.
- Be aware of your own behaviour. Parents set the model within a family, so if you want your children to lessen their dependence on screens, you need to do the same. When you do need to look at something on the internet, say ‘I’m just going to check the bus timetable’ or ‘I’m texting granny’ so the kids know why you’re using the tablet/phone. All too often, others are excluded from whatever someone’s doing on a device, when all they see is their face in front of a screen.
- Provide opportunities for non-tech activities. If you’re confident your children have had time outside, done their homework, gone swimming, played with friends etc, you can relax more about screen time, knowing they are getting the chance to develop other interests.
- Talk about your concerns. Help your children understand for themselves why too much screen time is not a healthy choice, in much the same way you might discuss the importance of brushing their teeth. It helps them learn to take responsibility for their own actions and feel more in control as a result.
- Show an interest. Show you are interested in what your children are doing on the internet. Joining them in a computer game every now and then or asking more about what they’re doing in Minecraft, may help break down some of the tension that can arise around screen time. Showing interest in things your children like lets them know you respect their choices and helps them realise they can come to you with things that are important to them.
- Give yourself a break. Being a parent is hard work. Accept that sometimes an iPad or phone may help stave off a meltdown or make a long car journey more bearable and allowing yourself flexibility is ok.