What Stage of Change Are You In?

Despite what you see when you look at your credit card bills or what you hear when a creditor calls, or what you see when you try to open your closet and stuff falls on you, do you still think that your shopping is under control?

Have you begun to see the costs, financial and otherwise of your overspending, but still find yourself going back and forth about whether it’s really a problem?

Are you preparing to take steps to curb your overspending?

Do you have a plan in place that will help you stop overshopping?

Have you mostly stopped overspending or overshopping and now you’re just trying to maintain those gains?

Have you made progress and now find yourself lapsing or relapsing?

Each of these questions represents a different stage on the continuum of change. Looking at change in this way first became popular in the late 1970’s with the introduction of J.O. Prochaska and C. DiClemente’s Stages of Change model. Since that time, the stages of change framework has been successfully applied to a number of addictive problems including eating disorders, alcoholism, substance abuse and people who are in debt counseling to help people identify where in the change process they are and to build and maintain motivation to change. A recent article in the Journal of the Financial Planning introduces and extends its use to people with compulsive buying behavior, which is why I wanted to share it with you. Read it and you’ll be much better able to identify where you are in the change process and what you need to do to progress further.

An understanding of the stages that people with addictions go through as they begin to move through the process of recovery from denial and ambivalence through preparation, action, and maintenance drives the model, which is also aligned with Motivational Interviewing, a form of therapy that helps a client develop and maintain motivation to change.

During the denial stage, an overspender is either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge his or her problematic behavior. Individuals in this stage may seek professional help not of their own volition, but because friends or family have seen the cost of the compulsive buying behavior and insist that the overshopper get help. Often, as a result of that help, an individual progresses to the ambivalence stage, during which he or she begins to recognize the negative consequences of this behavior, but is still torn between acknowledging the problem and continuing to overshop or overspend.

When the pendulum of ambivalence swings toward the “I need to change” side, the preparation stage begins, during which the person no longer resists the notion of change and, often with a professional’s help, starts to put together a plan for moving forward. The implementation of the plan indicates that an individual has moved into the action stage; he or she begins to substitute new, positive behaviors for self-defeating overshopping and overspending. Once the action phase is complete, the maintenance stage begins. An overshopper in this phase has developed successful ways to deal with triggers and other stressors and is moving toward sustaining the changes he or she has made in the direction of financial independence and greater emotional stability.

This is not a fixed stage, given the fact that powerful, tempting shopping triggers may exist, which may necessitate additional strategies, including learning how to deal with inevitable lapses and sometimes full-blown relapses. Relapsing is a normal, predictable and sometimes even necessary part of this process; post relapse, an overspender needs to revisit and reintegrate the stages of change to back on track.

A detailed and compelling case example brings the model to life and shows you how one overshopper made enormous progress using this valuable structure.

While the article is addressed to financial advisors, overshoppers and overspenders and the people who love them will learn a great deal of useful, actionable information.

To read the whole article, click here

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