Mental Health Recovery Happens in Stages

Special by Robin Montvilo

At “Changes for a Lifetime: Supporting Recovery in Behavioral Health,” a forum held recently at Rhode Island College, internationally renown URI Professor James Prochaska, Ph.D., advised a packed house of 300 health care professionals that mental health treatment can be valuable for patients regardless of their stage of recovery.

“The working definition of recovery is the choice of life over death,” said Prochaska, who is the director of URI’s Cancer Prevention Research Center. “Anything that manifests the will to live can be defined as recovery.”

Prochaska, who co-presented with URI Adjunct Assistant Professor Sara Johnson, said that practitioners should not wait for patients to hit a rock-bottom phase. He said that helping people at any point in recovery—particularly early on in their recovery process—could help those patients live healthier lives. He also urged the audience to share his view of recovery with a friend, who could then tell another friend, ultimately educating the public and making Rhode Island a healthier state.

Prochaska is best known for his work with the Transtheoretical Model of Change, used to promote behavioral change among targeted populations. The model has been applied internationally to many health care issues, such as smoking cessation and HIV protection. Organized around an individual’s decision-making process, the change model tracks progress through five distinct stages of behavior that advance from gaining awareness of intervention strategies to considering those strategies, preparing for them, attempting them and sustaining them.

In recognition of his work on the Transtheoretical Model and his impact on changing the way that behavioral health services are practiced in R.I., Dr. Prochaska was bestowed a Gubernatorial citation by RI Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Director Craig Stenning.

The forum was co-sponsored by the R.I. Governor’s Council on Behavioral Health, the R.I. Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, the R.I. College Chemical Dependency/Addiction Studies Program and CODAC Behavioral Healthcare.