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What does recovery mean?

The term ‘recovery’ has been used in mental health services for many years and the concept has been adapted by many different people and organisations over time. The recovery model isn’t easy to define, but the principles are about trying to ensure that mental health services are focussed on an individual’s hopes and aspirations, rather than being focussed on a person’s symptoms.

The idea that someone with a mental health problem can experience ‘recovery’ is now more commonly accepted.  Historically, to ‘recover’ has been interpreted as the person being free of symptoms, or being restored to their former level of health.  Now, the focus is more about coping with difficulties and experiencing a good quality of life.

The concept of recovery was central to developing a different way of thinking about how best to support service users, with services that are recovery-focussed being directed by the service user (and their family) towards achieving personal goals, reaching aspirations, developing relationships and leading a fulfilling life, while at the same time coping with symptoms.

The recovery model is about fostering a sense of hope for the service user and supporting the service user to develop a sense of control over their lives. Services aim to be ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’ or ‘doing for’.

Recovery is described as a journey that someone goes through, with ups and downs, gaining experience and skills along the way and adjusting positively to the challenges that people may face in life. It requires a service to be optimistic and not centred around dealing with problems, but looking more at playing a part in supporting people to lead meaningful lives.

Want to know more?

The Outcomes Star looks at 10 different aspects of someone’s life, and guides the person to get a sense of how well they are achieving in each aspect. These are issues such as, ‘managing mental health’, ‘social networks’ and ‘identity and self-esteem’. This can then help the individual to acknowledge that there could be some developments in specific areas, and to focus on developing and growing in a particular aspect of their life, rather than exploring how to get well in a less-focussed manner.

You can also find out about other Tools for Recovery here.

The Mental Health Foundation has some useful and informative pages on the recovery model.

Rethink’s website has some useful pages about recovery, with testimonials from services users about how different aspects of recovery created positive change in their lives.

Closing the Gap: ‘Priorities for essential change in mental health’ (Department of Health document) has a number of priorities for improving mental health, the first of which states: High-quality mental health services with an emphasis on recovery should be commissioned in all areas, reflecting local need.

The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health website has a wide range of useful recovery material

Making Recovery a Reality in Forensic Settings

ImROC (Implementing Recovery Through Organisational Change) Briefing number 10.   Published September 2014 by Centre for Mental Health Network, NHS Confederation 2014.  Written by Gerard Drennan and James Wooldridge together with Anne Aiyegbusi, Debbie Alred, Joe Ayres, Richard Barker, Sally Carr, Helen Eunson, Hilary Lomas, Estelle Moore, Debbie Stanton & Geoff Shepherd.

Recovery to Practice: Bridging People, Knowledge, Tools and Experience A website about Recovery produced by the American organisation SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Other useful documents hosted on this site include:

The Recovery Vision for Mental Health Services and Research - A British Perspective (90.2 KiB)

 – Paper by J Turner-Crowson and J Wallcroft (2002), Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, Winter 2002 – Vol. 25 no.3.pp 245-254

Recovery Best Practices - Emerging Best Practices in Mental Health Recovery. National Institute for Mental Health in England (310.2 KiB)

 – Emerging Best Practices in Mental Health Recovery. National Institute for Mental Health in England (2004)

Recovery Measures - Can We Measure Recovery? (1.2 MiB)

– A compendium of Recovery and Recovery-Related Instruments. Produced by The Evaluation Centre @ HSRI and prepared by Ruth O. Ralph, PhD, Kathryn Kidder, MA and Dawna Phillips, M.P.H. (2000)

Recovery or Discovery? (26.0 KiB)

– A paper by Julie Repper (2005)

Making Recovery A Reality (454.0 KiB)

 – Policy Paper – Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health; G.Shepherd, J Boardman & M Slade (2008)

Implementing Recovery - A Methodology for Organisational Change (425.6 KiB)

 – Policy paper – Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, G.Shepherd, J Boardman & M Slade (2009)

100 Ways to support recovery; A guide for mental health professionals – Rethink report by Mike Slade (2013)

Helpful services for carers
Recovery resources for professionals