The Change Theory of Nursing was developed by Kurt Lewin,
who is considered the father of social psychology. This theory is his most influential theory.
He theorized a three-stage model of change known as unfreezing-change-refreeze model
that requires prior learning to be rejected and replaced.
Lewin's definition of behavior in this model is "a dynamic balance of forces working
in opposing directions."
The Change Theory has three major concepts: driving forces, restraining forces, and
equilibrium. Driving forces are those that push in a direction that causes change to
occur. They facilitate change because they push the patient in a desired direction.
They cause a shift in the equilibrium towards change. Restraining forces are those
forces that counter the driving forces. They hinder change because they push the patient
in the opposite direction. They cause a shift in the equilibrium that opposes change.
Equilibrium is a state of being where driving forces equal restraining forces, and no
change occurs. It can be raised or lowered by changes that occur between the driving
and restraining forces.
There are three stages in this nursing theory: unfreezing, change, and refreezing.
Unfreezing is the process which involves finding a method of making it possible for
people to let go of an old pattern that was somehow counterproductive. It is necessary
to overcome the strains of individual resistance and group conformity. There are three
methods that can lead to the achievement of unfreezing. The first is to increase the
driving forces that direct behavior away from the existing situation or status quo.
Second, decrease the restraining forces that negatively affect the movement from the
existing equilibrium. Thirdly, finding a combination of the first two methods.
The change stage, which is also called "moving to a new level" or "movement," involves
a process of change in thoughts, feeling, behavior, or all three, that is in some way
more liberating or more productive.
The refreezing stage is establishing the change as the new habit, so that it now
becomes the "standard operating procedure." Without this final stage, it can be easy
for the patient to go back to old habits.