Use Psychology to Help a Loved One Seek Help for Mental Health: The Stages of Change Model

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In helping someone seek help for their mental health, understanding the stages of change can be a pivotal factor. The Transtheoretical Model (TTM), also known as the Stages of Change model, is a theoretical framework that provides insights into how individuals transition through various stages while attempting to modify behaviour. This model, initially developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s, has found applications in a wide range of fields, including health and psychology. In this blog, we will delve into the Transtheoretical Model and explore how it can be applied to help someone seek assistance from a clinical psychologist.

The Transtheoretical Model in a Nutshell

The TTM posits that change is not a linear process but rather a cyclical journey through distinct stages. These stages include precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and sometimes termination. At each stage, individuals face unique challenges, motivations, and mindsets. Progression between stages is not always smooth; individuals may move back and forth between stages as they navigate the complexities of change.

Stages of Change Cycle

How to find out which stage your loved one is

Assessing the stage of change a loved one is in, regarding seeking help from a clinical psychologist, requires a delicate and empathetic approach. Here is some guidance that could help you. Begin by actively listening to their thoughts and feelings about their current situation. If they seem unaware of the issue, you might notice signs of denial or minimization, suggesting they could be in the precontemplation stage. On the other hand, if they express mixed emotions and a growing awareness of their struggles, they might be in the contemplation stage. Look for signs of research or conversations about seeking help, indicating the preparation stage. They could be in the action stage if they have already scheduled appointments or taken concrete steps. Lastly, if they have consistently engaged in therapy and worked to maintain their progress, they may have transitioned into the maintenance stage. Remember that individuals can move back and forth between stages, and respecting their pace and feelings is essential in providing the support they need.

1. Precontemplation

At this stage, individuals may not be aware or willing to acknowledge that they have a problem. Someone struggling with mental health issues might not recognize the severity of their situation or minimize their symptoms. To move them beyond this stage, education and awareness campaigns can play a crucial role in helping them understand the potential benefits of seeking help.

Helping someone who is in the precontemplation stage:

  1. Raise Awareness: Engage in public awareness campaigns, seminars, workshops, or online content that educates individuals about common mental health issues and the benefits of seeking professional help. By providing information, you can help individuals realize that their struggles might be more severe than they initially thought.
  2. Storytelling: Share personal stories of individuals who have successfully sought help from clinical psychologists. Hearing relatable stories makes seeking help less daunting and more achievable, thus encouraging people in the precontemplation stage to consider reaching out.
  3. Provide Self-Assessment Tools: Offer online quizzes or self-assessment tools that allow individuals to evaluate their own mental well-being. These tools help individuals identify patterns and symptoms that warrant professional help, nudging them towards contemplation.

2. Contemplation

In this stage, individuals start recognizing the need for change but may still have mixed feelings. They weigh the pros and cons of seeking help from a clinical psychologist. Motivational interviewing techniques can be effective here, as they encourage individuals to express their concerns and explore their reasons for change openly.

Helping someone who is in the contemplation stage:

  1. Journaling: Encourage individuals to maintain a journal where they can write about their thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding their mental health. This practice promotes self-reflection, helping them better understand the impact of their struggles and the potential benefits of seeking help.
  2. Pros and Cons List: Have individuals create a list of the pros and cons of seeking help from a clinical psychologist. This exercise can help them visualize the potential benefits and overcome the concerns that might be holding them back.
  3. Explore Success Stories: Share case studies or testimonials from individuals who have moved from contemplation to seeking help and experienced positive outcomes. Reading about others’ experiences can provide a sense of hope and motivation to take the next step.

3. Preparation

Individuals at this stage are committed to making a change and begin to seek information and resources actively. They may research clinical psychologists in their area, gather recommendations, and explore different treatment options. Encouraging them to set a specific date to initiate contact with a psychologist can facilitate their transition to the next stage.

Helping someone who is in the preparation stage:

  1. Research Therapists: Encourage individuals to research and compile a list of clinical psychologists in their area or those offering online services. Provide information about their specialities, approaches, and patient reviews to help individuals make an informed decision.
  2. Reach Out to Supportive Individuals: Suggest that individuals discuss their intention to seek help with supportive friends, family members, or peers. Having a support network aware of their decision can provide encouragement and accountability as they move towards action.
  3. Set a Concrete Goal: Help individuals set a clear goal for seeking help. For example, they could commit to scheduling an initial consultation with a clinical psychologist within a specific timeframe. Setting a goal adds a sense of commitment and purpose to their intention.

4. Action

This is the stage where individuals take concrete steps towards seeking help. They schedule appointments, attend therapy sessions, and actively engage in the therapeutic process. The role of the clinical psychologist here is crucial, as they provide guidance, support, and interventions tailored to the individual’s needs.

Helping someone who is in the action stage:

  1. Commit to Consistent Sessions: Encourage the individual to commit to a regular schedule of therapy sessions with the clinical psychologist. This commitment can help establish a routine and provide a sense of structure, making it easier for the individual to stay engaged in the therapeutic process.
  2. Set Specific Goals: Work with the individual and the clinical psychologist to define specific, achievable goals for therapy. These goals could be related to managing symptoms, improving coping skills, or enhancing overall well-being. Having clear objectives provides direction and motivation throughout the therapy journey.
  3. Practice Open Communication: Encourage the individual to communicate openly with the clinical psychologist about their experiences, progress, and challenges. Effective communication ensures that the therapy sessions remain relevant and tailored to their needs, allowing for adjustments as necessary.

Remember, the “Action” stage signifies a critical phase of change where individuals actively implement changes in their behaviour.

5. Maintenance

After initiating change, individuals work to sustain their progress. They continue attending therapy sessions, implementing strategies learned, and gradually building healthier habits. The clinical psychologist helps by reinforcing positive behaviours, addressing setbacks, and adapting treatment plans as needed.

6. Termination

While only some reach this stage, termination involves achieving the desired outcomes and no longer needing active intervention. It’s important to note that relapses are possible, and individuals may cycle back through the stages. However, even if regression occurs, the experience gained from prior stages can facilitate quicker progress.


The Transtheoretical Model offers a valuable lens through which we can understand the complex change process. Applying this model to helping someone seek help from a clinical psychologist underscores the importance of recognizing an individual’s different stages and tailoring our support accordingly. By acknowledging the challenges and motivations at each stage, we can provide more effective support, leading to improved mental health outcomes and a more empowered journey towards healing and growth.

For more suggestions, read our blog with practical advice on the Dos and Donts of encouraging a loved one seek help.


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