Teachable moments for health behavior change: a concept analysis

Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Jul;76(1):25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2008.11.002. Epub 2008 Dec 24.


Objective: "Teachable moments" have been proposed as events or circumstances which can lead individuals to positive behavior change. However, the essential elements of teachable moments have not been elucidated. Therefore, we undertook a comprehensive review of the literature to uncover common definitions and key elements of this phenomenon.

Methods: Using databases spanning social science and medical disciplines, all records containing the search term "teachable moment*" were collected. Identified literature was then systematically reviewed and patterns were derived.

Results: Across disciplines, 'teachable moment' has been poorly developed both conceptually and operationally. Usage of the term falls into three categories: (1) "teachable moment" is synonymous with "opportunity" (81%); (2) a context that leads to a higher than expected behavior change is retrospectively labeled a 'teachable moment' (17%); (3) a phenomenon that involves a cueing event that prompts specific cognitive and emotional responses (2%).

Conclusion: The findings suggest that the teachable moment is not necessarily unpredictable or simply a convergence of situational factors that prompt behavior change but suggest the possible creation of a teachable moment through clinician-patient interaction.

Practice implications: Clinician-patient interaction may be central to the creation of teachable moments for health behavior change.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Teaching*