“Congratulations! Your preparation and commitment to following your plan of action have paid off!

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What do you think is the main idea of maintenance stage? Have you wondered if an individual successfully reach this stage, would they maintain their behavior for the rest of their life or is there a possibility of a relapse? What does the word “maintenance” imply?

Maintenance stage implies a passive approach to sustaining change. While it is true that a small percentage of individuals who have successfully come through the action stage report that they no longer have a desire to, or face temptation to, engage in their problem behavior, the vast majority of people report a significant risk for relapse. This stage shows the sustaining of his or her new behavior, usually for 6 months to 5 years.

Here are a few examples elucidated using case studies to help you understand the “Maintenance” stage.

Transitioning from Action to Maintenance.

Case study 1: James is going on a low-carbohydrate diet in order to lose 20 pounds. It had been very difficult at first, requiring a lot of cognitive energy to learn which carbs are good and which carbs are bad, etc. Once he learns the ropes, finds a tasty low-carb diet and incorporates it into his lifestyle, it doesn’t require so much thought anymore. In other words, James can “just do it.”

Experts suggest that maintenance occurs when the behavioral change has been successfully integrated and accommodated into one’s lifestyle.

How to avoid relapse?

Case study 2: Consider a recently recovering compulsive gambler, Mike, who has not gambled in a few months. During his therapy sessions, he has learned that he should avoid people and places associated with gambling. However, Mike is feeling very confident in his recovery, so much so that when he is invited to a low-stakes poker game for a friend’s bachelor party, he tells himself that he can handle it. He tells himself that he will gamble “just to be social” and sets his loss limit at $10. By the end of the night, he has lost more than $250.

Think of relapse as a process and not an event. In other words, relapse includes identifiable thoughts and feelings that, if avoided, inexorably lead to engaging in the problem behavior again. Self-deception is the common thread in most instances of relapse.

What can we possibly do in a HR space to guide an individual who is in the maintenance stage?

Let us first discuss signs & symptoms of relapses.

  • increased feelings and perception of stress and feeling overwhelmed
  • self-pity
  • feelings of anger or entitlement
  • skipping treatment sessions or support meetings
  • poor sleep
  • overworking

Strategies of maintaining change.

Maintaining behavioral change is about more than avoiding relapse. It also involves taking a proactive approach. Here are some helpful strategies for maintaining change:

  • Review goals, accomplishments and any setbacks each week.
  • Be honest with yourself about your progress and setbacks.
  • Keep a private journal of your thoughts and feelings about your life as you journey through the change process.
  • Look for ways to improve your plan—ask others.
  • Stay in touch with your support team.
  • Periodically assess the level of support and accountability you need, and adjust accordingly.
  • Disclose newly discovered relapse triggers or risky situations immediately.
  • Ask for specific feedback on how your team perceives your progress and attitude. Does anything concern them?
  • Learn more about your problem behavior. Consider attending a workshop or conference.


Acceptance is perhaps the purest outcome of the maintenance stage. This is the spiritual aspect of the change process, and the one that is hardest to define and measure. Acceptance is that place you come to when you realize that you really had to make a change and, that you will be all right.

If at any time you want or need help changing a problem behavior, don’t hesitate to contact your employee assistance program or a mental health professional.

By Darnisha & Lisa