A comparison of the Prochaska Cycle of Change and the Holling Adaptive Cycle

Victor Ronald David MacGill


The Prochaska Cycle of Change was developed in the field of cognitive behaviour and is used in areas such as nursing and criminal justice to effect behavioural changes in people. This proposes a cycle with the phases of pre-contemplation, contemplation, determination, action and maintenance.  The Holling Adaptive Cycle was developed from research into ecological systems and is also used in such areas as financial and organisational systems. This model proposes a cycle of exploitation, conservation, release and reorganisation.


This paper attempts to map the two cycles on top of each other and explore how this mapping might enhance our understanding of both cycles. It further explores some possible implications for work with offenders. Resilience is a central concept of the adaptive cycle and in work with offenders. Just as building resilience helps natural and organisational system to be adaptive, so too building resilience will assist offenders to gain appropriate governance over themselves and avoid falling back into further offending.


Adaptive cycle, resilience, offender, Cycle of change, desistance

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