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Engaging in a Process of Change

Guest post by Nicole O'Brien, LCSW

Sometimes we need a little extra support when we are making healthy changes in our life. This support can come from a trusted friend, family member, or a professional. When we start on a new journey, whether that’s by choice or by somehow stumbling into a new opportunity, our path on this journey may not always be straightforward. We may experience doubt, resistance or skepticism. We may also experience motivation, excitement or novelty as we engage in the process of personal growth and change. The change process is influenced by how our minds and bodies interact. We may experience thoughts that represent our inner critic such as “I can’t do this. Is this really going to work?” or supportive thoughts such as “I’ve got this! I’m proud of myself for making this change.”

When we open ourselves to new possibilities and learn to observe our thoughts and emotions without judgement, we enter a space in which we are not led by our thoughts and emotions, but rather checking in on them, as they change throughout the day. By becoming curious about our thoughts and emotions we connect to a greater sense of awareness that we are not our thoughts and we can learn to put a buffer between our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Such as the autopilot hand in the chip bag. Learning to notice our thoughts, feelings and body sensations in that exact moment becomes the entry point for change and the possibility of supporting ourselves in more long-term, sustainable change.

The change process has been captured in the following model:

  1. Precontemplation (We’re thinking about change)

  2. Contemplation (We know we have something we could change, but are not ready to change)

  3. Preparation (We learn about and plan for change)

  4. Action (We engage in the change)

  5. Maintenance (We continue with the change; we may also address what’s getting in the way)

  6. Relapse (We may return to old behavior; and/or learn that it’s part of the process) Hello intuitive eating!

As you begin working with a registered dietitian or a licensed mental health professional, they may introduce you to these stages of change and help you explore where you are in that process. Knowing where you are in the process can help you and the professional you work with tailor your approach. They may also support you to transition from thinking about change to taking actions to improve your quality of life and health. When we look at the stages of change from a holistic perspective, intuitive eating becomes an approach to avoid the possibility of relapse that often happens with quick-fix diets. A holistic therapeutic approach may look at a relapse as information to further explore underlying factors such as emotional states, trauma or other deeply ingrained messaging relating to past experiences.


Author: Nicole O'Brien, LCSW

Nicole O’Brien received her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of New England and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Her experiences have included working with groups, individuals and families from diverse backgrounds in settings including education, nonprofit organizations and mental health agencies. As a graduate student, Nicole trained at the Center for Grieving Children and Spurwink Services which exposed her to work in areas of bereavement, culturally and trauma-informed practices, social justice and numerous community services.

Nicole incorporates multiple lenses to explore individuals’ past experiences in a safe, supportive and holistic way. She works from a variety of treatment modalities including Deep Brain Reorienting, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma-focused Therapy, Supportive Therapy, Psychodynamic, Solution Focused and Somatic Awareness.

Nicole currently has a waitlist for new clients with MaineCare and private pay.

To contact her directly, please email or call at (207) 405-1504.


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