Recovery: Definition & Components

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Since the mid-1980s, a great deal has been written about mental health recovery from the perspective of the consumer (client), family member and mental health professional. The amount of research of various aspects of recovery continues to grow. Early research by Courtney Harding (1987) and others challenged the belief that severe mental illness is chronic and that stability is the best one could hope for. They discovered there are multiple outcomes associated with severe mental illness and that many people did progress beyond a state of mere stability. As such, the concept of recovery began to obtain legitimacy (Sullivan 1997).

Although there are many perceptions and definitions of recovery, William Anthony, Director of the Boston Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation seems to have developed the cornerstone definition of mental health recovery. Anthony (1993) identifies recovery as " a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by the illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness."

Ultimately, because recovery is a personal and unique process, everyone with a psychiatric illness develops his or her own definition of recovery. However, certain concepts or factors are common to recovery. Some of these are listed below.

More recently, SAMHSA released a consensus statement outlining 10 fundamental components of recovery, which can be viewed here.

Hope
Hope is a desire accompanied by confident expectation. Having a sense of hope is the foundation for ongoing recovery from mental illness. Even the smallest belief that we can get better, as others have, can fuel the recovery process.

Early in the recovery process, it is possible for a treatment provider, friend, and/or family member to carry...
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