The Transtheoretical Model of Change helps to identify and explain the levels of transition your loved one experiences when considering recovery from addiction. The American Psychological Association publishes a clear definition of the term “addiction.” Your loved one is considered to be addicted to any drug that he or she must take to avoid withdrawal symptoms — rather psychological, physical, or both. If you’re struggling with determining whether your friend or family member should seek treatment, this definition may prove helpful. The difficulty arises, however, in the fact that you’re probably not present to witness what happens when your son, daughter, mother, father, or spouse doesn’t take the drug in time. It’s difficult to mistake the signs of withdrawal in most people who are dependent on a drug.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The following symptoms are often associated with drug withdrawal:

  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

Not every symptom is present every time, and this is only a partial list, but if you’re ever in the room when a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal, you’ll realize that something is wrong. Sadly, most addicts are masters of disguising their drug use around the people who know them best. You may never have the opportunity to see someone you love in full-blown withdrawal. And while this may sound like a good thing, it makes it more difficult for you to determine whether a problem exists that you should address.

The Transtheoretical Model of Change

The Transtheoretical Model of Change cited at helps to identify and explain the levels of transition your loved one experiences when considering recovery from addiction. Understanding and recognizing each stage along the way may help you stage an effective intervention when the time arrives. In a nutshell, if your family member is considering seeking help for addiction to a substance, he or she will undergo the following five stages:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Because your family member has yet to seek treatment, or if he or she is in the early stages of admitting there’s a problem, they are hovering at or between stages one or two. Your best opportunity to approach them about seeking treatment in is stage one. If you plant the seed of change here, your loved one will be most receptive. According to the APA, in precontemplation, an addict is most open to educational information and feedback regarding their dependency. This is where you should approach your loved one to discuss your concerns.

Practical Application

The Transtheoretical Model of Change has been used countless times to help people stop engaging in harmful behaviors. From helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS to learning to wear a seat belt when traveling in a vehicle, it’s a sound, research-based method of changing behavior.

Compassionate and professional staff understand what methods are needed to help your loved find attain a drug-free life, and they’ll treat your family member as an individual with feelings and emotions instead of just another case of addiction. If you suspect someone you care about may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, encourage them to seek help today. A drug-free life is simply one phone call away.


  1. Understanding How People Change is First Step in Changing Unhealthy Behavior; American Psychological Association; retrieved from on May 17, 2015.