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Learn the 10 strategies suggested for various stages of change

This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Wellness Coaching 3rd Edition PDF by James Gavin & Madeleine Mcbrearty.

According to the American Psychological Association (2012), adopting effective strategies for change improves the likelihood of success (see What Americans Think of Willpower). Among these are 10 intervention strategies to advance change through the TTM stages (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997; Prochaska et al., 1994). These strategies include methods or techniques that can help people modify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the pursuit of desired change in diverse areas of their life (Marshall & Biddle, 2001; Schumann et al., 2005). Some of these will make sense in a coaching context, while others may not. People may not seek a coach’s services when they are in the stages of precontemplation, maintenance, or termination regarding certain behaviors, though these same individuals may have engaged you to work with them on modifying other habits (Yusufov et al., 2016). Even so, you may want to increase your awareness of resources that might assist people in the stages of precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation. The following section describes the 10 strategies suggested for the various stages of change (Prochaska et al., 1994; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997).

Strategy 1: Consciousness-Raising

This strategy involves intentional or unintentional exposure to information about oneself or problematic behaviors through such means as lectures, discussion groups, readings, advertisements, films, or even unexpected life events (e.g., a health crisis). Some of what happens here is by-chance encounter or unanticipated experiences. A lifelong smoker may go to a movie where the main character appears out of control because he is always trying to sneak out for a cigarette. This person had no intention of viewing this message; nonetheless he leaves the movie feeling motivated to explore his own smoking habits. Of course, we know that, even with strongly framed messages, such as the warnings on cigarette packages, people can turn a blind eye to the potential hazards they continually invite into their lives.

Strategy 2: Emotional Arousal

Emotional arousal, which often accompanies consciousness-raising, targets feelings. Films, books, dramatic media presentations, and fear-arousing experiences, including, for example, graphic depictions of diseased lungs or lives ruined through substance abuse, can arouse strong emotions. As noted, this type of intervention is likely to be a side effect of other kinds of messages that people intentionally or unintentionally experience. There are clear ethical considerations regarding deliberate efforts to upset people about their behaviors or current status. A coach may, for instance, know of a particularly dramatic film or novel that pertains to a client’s issue and surmise that recommending this material could result in the client’s having a strong emotional reaction. Such suggestions need to be carefully considered and offered with an explicit advisory about the nature of the content and its possible impact.

Strategy 3: Social or Environmental Control

External social or environmental forces may exert control over a person’s behavior with or without consent. Examples include nonsmoking areas; alcohol-free parties; and sanctions, such as social ostracism for behaving in certain ways. Increasingly, the North American world has become intolerant of public smoking so much so that smokers need to inconvenience themselves to continue their habit. Taxation or, to the contrary, insurance rate reductions pertaining to certain habits can also influence behavior. Companies may have policies and programs that reinforce certain behaviors, such as exercising regularly. Even though people may have no expressed desire to address unhealthy behaviors, situations may simply conspire against them. Coaches are not likely to direct their professional efforts toward these kinds of interventions, though as private citizens they may support their application.

Strategy 4: Environmental Assessment

This strategy involves appraising the negative impacts of the behavior on the person’s environment. For example, smokers may realize that smoking is harmful to the environment, or they may become aware of the effects of secondhand smoke on people around them. Better yet, they may want to act as a model to be emulated by their children and those whom they regularly see.

Strategy 5: Personal Revisioning

This strategy involves looking toward the future by imagining life after changing problematic behaviors. Revisioning, or self-reevaluation, enables people to appreciate how their behaviors may conflict with core personal values and thereby generate motivation to change. This type of intervention is well represented in the tool kits of professional coaches (see the six whats model in chapter 4). There are a number of ways coaches encourage their clients to create a compelling vision of their desired future in order to drive current actions in that direction. People who are willing to imagine a more gratifying future open themselves more readily to considering new behavior patterns.

Strategy 6: Commitment

Choosing to change, accepting responsibility for change, and then publicly announcing one’s commitment are core features of this strategy. It typically includes clear delineation of the intended change through a contract or other means of making the commitment explicit (see SuPeRSMART goals in chapter 11). This strategy constitutes a core element in the coaching process. Even at the level of small actions planned in individual coaching sessions, clients are typically asked how committed they are to engage in the designed actions. Making overt commitments to their coaches is a form of public expression for which clients then become accountable.

Strategy 7: Rewarding

This strategy relies on praise and other rewards to reinforce positive behavior change. Many of the changes that clients undertake in coaching relationships represent a significant challenge. Though various sources of motivation (see figure 3.1) for change are accessed in effective coaching, building in tangible rewards for attaining particular levels of achievement or adhering to commitments can help reinforce the emerging changes. Of course, if people continue to rely on reward strategies after several months of sustained action, there may be legitimate concerns about the degree to which the new behavior patterns are being internalized.

Figure 3.1 The self-determination continuum as related to physical activity (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Vallerand & Losier, 1999).
Figure 3.1 The self-determination continuum as related to physical activity (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Vallerand & Losier, 1999).

Strategy 8: Countering

In this strategy, people substitute healthy behaviors for unhealthy ones, such as doing tai chi for five minutes instead of having a late-night snack or ordering mineral water instead of another martini at the bar. This approach relies on identifying and controlling internal reactions, such as being aware when an urge arises and then substituting a preplanned healthy behavior. Coaches can help clients learn about their internal signals and make plans for countering potential slippages.

Strategy 9: Environmental Management or Stimulus Control

Similar to countering, environmental management involves controlling one’s world, but the focus is on the external environment. Environmental management involves deliberately manipulating one’s surroundings to support change. For instance, the act of engaging in exercise is strongly supported by reconfiguring the nonexerciser’s environment so that the probability of exercising on a regular basis is greatly increased. Examples might include signing up for a gym that has multiple locations, packing an exercise bag the night before a morning workout, booking a hotel with a fitness spa on a business trip, and creating workout stations for exercises at home, among others. Planning for these kinds of strategic interventions is part of the normal dialogue in coaching relationships.

Strategy 10: Social Support

Involving friends, families, colleagues, and professionals can definitely help people advance through the stages of change. Of course, coaching relationships in themselves offer understanding and guidance for clients as they progress through the challenges of change. However, a coaching relationship is by definition temporary. In understanding clients’ issues and the actions they pursue, ongoing and appropriate social support from others is helpful at all stages of change. Coaches not only explore the nature of current relationships with others implicated in clients’ change initiatives; they also investigate untapped resources and the creation of new social networks that can support commitments to action.