The Maintenance Stage of Change is arguably one of the most difficult stages to overcome since it can sometimes last a lifetime. You've done the work in putting your plan into action, but the work does not stop there.
In the Maintenance Stage, the last of the 5 Stages of Change, you are continuously reassessing your progress toward your goal, whether backwards (it happens!) or forwards, and modifying your goals accordingly. Once you are able to reach your goal, consistently maintain the change, and no longer need to spend conscious time working towards it, you can say that you have successfully achieved change. Until then, you will be consciously spending time maintaining it.
Lifestyle Therapy Case Study
smoking cessation: hannah
Hannah was a 25 year old graduate student who had been smoking socially for about a year and wanted to quit. Every time she drank with her friends, which was at least once every two weeks, she liked to smoke cigarettes. She liked it for the attention she received, the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, an excuse for a break from the noisy bar or club, and for that floaty, lightheaded feeling that helped her relax.
Over the following months in the Action Stage, Hannah worked hard at weaning herself off of cigarettes. She had many setbacks - some weeks when she was able to smoke only 1-2 cigarettes, and other weeks when she smoked 4+. She then signed up to work with a Lifestyle Therapist (LT) to help her assess her situation and come up with a long-lasting solution to help her quit smoking.
Hannah's LT constantly guided her in reflecting, problem-solving, assessing, and modifying her goals, thought processes, and reactions to cravings. Slowly, Hannah's goals changed from, "I will smoke less than 5 cigarettes in the next two weeks" to "I will smoke 0 cigarettes in the next two weeks."
A year after she began the Action Stage to quit smoking, she finally was able to smoke 0 cigarettes consistently. She had entered the Maintenance Stage - she wasn't smoking any cigarettes anymore, but she was still finding herself fighting urges to smoke whenever she was in loud and crowded settings.
It took another year working with the LT in the Maintenance Stage for Hannah to no longer have to fight her urges to smoke. She and her LT came up with a plan to help her prevent an urge from developing and another plan for when she did feel the urge. Hannah became better prepared before going into a loud and crowded setting.
In conclusion, Hannah, who had only smoked socially for a year, needed two full years to finally say that she had quit smoking. She needed an entire year dedicated to Maintenance to no longer have strong urges to smoke. And is she totally in the clear now? Maybe, maybe not. But if she has setbacks in the future, she will know how to create, assess, and modify her own goals.
Going through a big change? Still fighting "urges"? Getting frustrated with setbacks?