In this series I explain the steps families need to follow in order to best help their troubled adult-child. To review the previous articles, here are the steps you need to follow in order to best help your adult-child in trouble. You need to be able to understand your child’s condition and begin a process of taking responsibility for your part. You need to help your child find a terrific mentor/therapist who is not part of the family and can engage the child in a process of self-discovery. You need to become involved in the treatment as a family. The purpose of this is not to fix your child, but to learn how to listen to your son or daughter and to recognize what you can do is heal and change yourself.
Once the family is involved in treatment and the youngster starts feeling good about the new way that their parents are engaged, we come to the next stage. In this part, we will learn how to create an action plan with your grown-child. In order to do this, first we must understand how change happens. That will be the focus of this article.
There are basically four stages in a change process.
In the first stage, we don’t think we have a problem. The problem is usually someone else. (If they’d just leave me alone everything would be fine!) Some people call this stage “pre-contemplation.” We don’t see any reason to even think about change.
Another name for this phase is “unconscious incompetence.” We have no idea how dumb we really are. We don’t know that we don’t know. In this phase, for example, a piano player may think he’s playing well while not recognizing his limits as a musician.
In the second stage, we begin to consider the possibility of change. This is called the “contemplation” phase. We shift back and forth, one minute recognizing the need for change, and the next denying it. We begin to admit the problems we are having in life, and start to open to the possibility we may be the one who needs to do something about it.
This phase can also be called “conscious incompetence.” We know that we’re acting dumb. In this phase, the piano player recognizes he has bad habits that make his playing bad, but he does it anyway because changing feels too hard.
In the third stage, we decide to change. This is called the “action” phase. Trying to learn new habits of life is hard. We may fail many times. The struggle can be invigorating and disheartening by turns.
This phase can also be called “conscious competence.” In this phase, the piano player feels awkward. In trying to unlearn bad, old habits and learn good, new ones, he has to think about what he is doing. The new behaviors do not feel natural yet.
Finally, we get to what is known as the “new-self” phase. This can also be called “unconscious competence.” The piano player has practiced the new habits enough to establish “muscle memory.” He doesn’t have to think about what he is doing anymore and the new way of playing is natural. The addict doesn’t drink and this now feels like “them.” The new way of being becomes real.
In the next articles in this series I will show you what the family needs to do to move through the stages of change.
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