Maryland's Tobacco Resource Center - Linking Professionals to Best Practices

Helping Relationships

Your relationship with the person in your life who smokes puts you in a perfect position to be helpful to them as they embark on the journey to quitting.  This “helping relationship” -- of which you are a significant part -- can be especially beneficial during 3 of the 5 established stages of behavior change:  Contemplation, Preparation, and Action (DiClemente, 2003;   Ideally, your friend or loved one will make you aware of where they are in the change process, and even specify their needs (e.g., they may need understanding and support, but not necessarily advice).  The following information provides you with some general guidance as to the needs associated with each of these three stages of change.

In the Contemplation stage of change, it is important for you to realize that your loved one is not yet ready to take action.  Someone who is considering a specific behavior change usually needs support, listening, and feedback.  If you are asked to provide input to your loved one that would enhance their awareness and self-motivation, share with them (in a caring manner) your observations, relevant personal experiences, and any information about smoking cessation that you may have gathered for them.  

By the time your loved one enters into the Preparation stage, they most likely have made you aware of their intended goal, and of the ways in which you can be most helpful.   As they confront barriers to their behavior change, they will also need your attention, consideration, and understanding; hopefully, they will realize that your support can be a great help to them at this time, and hopefully they will be open to asking for it as needed.

Helping relationships are vitally important during the Action stage of change.  Positive reinforcement is highly effective in facilitating behavior change, and even small successes should be recognized.  Rewards and acknowledgement for all levels of progress will remind your loved one that they are not alone in this undertaking, and will encourage them to continue to pursue their ultimate goal of freedom from smoking.