Helping Clients To Stop “Thinking About It” (Contemplation) And Start “Planning It” (Preparation)

Helping Clients To Stop “Thinking About It” (Contemplation) And Start “Planning It” (Preparation)

Financial advisors may often work with clients struggling to implement changes recommended by their financial plans. For many of these clients, moving forward can be difficult for a number of reasons. Fortunately, the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of change is a research-based framework that gives advisors strategies to use with their clients who may be resistant to change. While the first stage of TTM is Pre-Contemplation, where clients may not yet have the awareness that change is important to their plan, the second stage of the TTM of change is known as the Contemplation stage. In this stage, clients have acknowledged the need for change and are beginning to think about the action needed to implement change. Perhaps more importantly, they begin to consider their own ability to carry out that action and what the action actually entails behaviorally (e.g., saving more) and emotionally (e.g., cutting down on buying new shoes, ordering coffee, and planning expensive vacations).

Like the other stages of TTM, the Contemplation stage has specific hallmarks. For instance, clients in this stage tend to display behavior characterized by what are known as the “two D’s”, Doubt and Delay. Clients may get stuck in this stage because they Doubt they have the requisite ability or knowledge to implement change (e.g., they may think that they can’t understand finances or that they don’t know enough to actually tackle the actions required), which can end their progress moving forward. Clients in this stage may also tend to Delay their progress. While Delay can sometimes be attributed to Doubts, fear of the future is another common reason for clients to Delay. Those who are stuck in the Contemplation stage must resolve their issues with Doubt and Delay before they can successfully move on to the next stage of change.

Financial advisors seeking ways to work with clients stuck in the Contemplation stage may find that worksheet tools, adapted from original research by James and Janice Prochaska, can be a useful way to help clients overcome resistance and gradually move through the next stages of change to accomplish their desired goals. These worksheets focus on reducing the negative ‘cons’ that clients have associated with the change and that hold them back from moving forward. They also aim to emotionally activate the clients by helping them understand how the impact of their actions affects others around them. These tools offer an easier, systematic process, so there is less guesswork for the advisor when trying to figure out how best to help clients move forward into the Preparation stage.

Ultimately, the key point is that there is a systematic process of implementing change, and by applying the research that’s based on TTM, advisors can better understand what specific issues their clients may be struggling with and help them overcome these barriers. Additionally, with the aid of TTM worksheet tools designed for use with financial planning clients, advisors can more easily facilitate client discussions exploring goals and challenges, and encourage their clients to move through the stages of change with greater ease and self-awareness!Read More…

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