Evaluating Self-Help: Strategy #9 – Inspiration or the Change Process and Necessary Skills?


Dr. Norcross’ ninth strategy urges us to go beyond the look, the claims, the advertising, the inspirational stories and seek out the real process of change. Often people want to be motivated by a person’s inspirational story.  This can be very satisfying and may urge you to confront a problem but rarely does someonelse’s story bring lasting change to your life.  Therefore: 9. Search for self-help that will take you through the ENTIRE change process.

  • Real change requires SKILLS.  After awhile the “high” of the motivational speaker or the inspirational sermon wears off.  Much self-help just gets a person motivated but fails to teach the strategies to make lasting change.   Getting all the ingredients ready to make bread will not produce a freshly baked loaf.  Visualizing delicious bread will not make it appear. You will need to assemble the ingredients, understand the rising process of the yeast, knead the dough properly and follow all the directions…knowledge, time, patience, skill…
  • Select self-help that takes you through the whole process…step-by-step. There is a recipe for change: you will need to gain knowledge, take a self-assessment, become motivated, prepare to change your behavior, learn new skills, practice those skills, deal with set-backs, and develop a strategy to maintain change.
  • Research has been conducted over many years by Prochaska, Norcross and DeClemente, a brief summary follows:
  • Summary of Changing for Good by Prochaska, Norcross & DeClemente

    How to move on to the next stage of change (i.e from pre-contemplation to contemplation, then to preparation, action, maintenance and termination)

    Stage How to Recognise it How to Move on
    1. Pre-Contemplation Resisting change 1) Avoiding the subject2) Being ill-informed about it3) Not taking responsibility for it4) Presences of defence mechanisms e.g.denial (I haven’t got a problem)rationalisation (making excuses) intellectualisation (avoids engaging with problem emotionally) projection (say others have got your problem) displacement (blame other people) 1) Think about the subject2) Become well-informed3) Take responsibility4) Become aware of your defencesChanging defences into copingConcentrate on problemProper logical analysis Empathy Sublimation – Take out feelings through sport, exercise, not on other people Be responsible (see 3 above)
    2. Contemplation Change on the horizon Seriously thinking about doing somethingMay procrastinate about changeMay insist on the perfect solution before acting Get emotional arousal –e.g. seek out films that deal with your problem.Vividly imagine your problem and the bad effects it hasMake the decision using a rational decision-making processe.g. pros and cons, Progress
    3. Preparation Getting ready You have decided on action, and are making the steps necessary to prepare you for action Commit to change – make it a priorityCounter anxiety by taking small steps, setting a time frame, telling people about your decision & making an action plan
    4. Action Time to move You are taking the steps required to changee.g. stop smoking, stop drinking Find healthy responses to cope with the benefits of the problem (e.g. if smoking reduced anxiety, find other ways to reduce the anxiety)Exercise and relaxControl your environment e.g. remove cigarettes, avoid your drinking pals, don’t go past the cake shop, use ‘to do list’ and other remindersReward yourselfGet others to help you (e.g. bet them you can change)
    5.Maintenance staying there After several months you enter this stage Look out for social pressures, internal challenges and special situationsReview a list of negative aspects of problem regularlyAvoid people and places that can compromise your changeMake a crisis card to help you deal with occasions when you are tempted
    6.Termination (if no relapse)orRecycling – learning from relapse You have a new self-image, no temptation in any new situation and self-efficacyYou relapse Congratulations!See it as taking one step back to take two steps forwardLearn the lessons of relapse

    • most people need more than one attempt,
    • budget more time, energy and money
    • be prepared for complications
    • be aware that small decisions lead to big ones
    • be aware that distress precipitates relapse

    Recommended book:

    Changing for Good : A revolutionary 6 stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward Prochaska, Norcross & DiClemente (William Morrow and Co. Inc, 1992)

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