The Recovery Model is an approach to mental disorder or substance dependence that emphasizes and supports an individual's potential for recovery. Recovery can be seen within the model as a personal journey requiring hope, a secure base, supportive relationships, empowerment, social inclusion, coping skills, and finding meaning.

Concepts of recovery

There is some variation within the Recovery Model. Professionalized clinical approaches tend to focus on improvement in particular symptoms and functions, and on the role of treatments; consumer/survivor models tend to put more emphasis on peer support, empowerment and real-world personal experience. Recovery can be seen in terms of a social model of disability rather than a medical model of disability, and there may be differences in the degree of acceptance of diagnostic "labels" and treatments. In psychiatric rehabilitation, the concept of recovery may be used to refer primarily to managing symptoms, reducing psychosocial disability, and improving role performance.

From the perspective of psychiatric rehabilitation services, a number of qualities of recovery have been suggested: Recovery can occur without professional intervention; Recovery requires people who believe in and stand by the person in recovery; A recovery vision is not a function of theories about the cause of psychiatric conditions; Recovery can occur even if symptoms reoccur; Recovery changes frequency and duration of symptoms; Recovery from the consequences of a psychiatric condition are often far more difficult than from the symptoms; Recovery is not linear; Recovery takes place as a series of small steps; Recovery does not mean the person was never really psychiatrically disabled; Recovery focuses on wellness not illness; Recovery should focus on consumer choice.

For many, “recovery” has a political as well as personal implication - where to recover is to find meaning, to challenge prejudice (including diagnostic "labels" in some cases), to reclaim a chosen life and place within society, and to validate the self. Recovery can thus be viewed as one manifestation of empowerment. An empowerment model of recovery may emphasize that conditions are not necessarily permanent, that other people have recovered who can be role models and share experiences, and "symptoms" can be understood as expressions of distress related to emotions and other people. One such model from the US National Empowerment Center advances 10 such principles of recovery framed them within a cognitive-behavioral approach.

Elements of recovery

It has been emphasized that each individual's journey to recovery is a deeply personal process, as well as being related to an individual's community and society. A number of features have been proposed as common core elements:


Finding and nurturing hope has been described as the key to recovery. It is said to include not just optimism but a sustainable belief in oneself and a willingness to persevere through uncertainty and setbacks. Hope may start at a certain turning point, or emerge gradually as a small and fragile feeling, and may fluctuate with despair. It is said to involve daring to trust in yourself and other people and to risk disappointment, failure and further hurt.

Secure base

Appropriate housing, a sufficient income, freedom from violence, and adequate access to healthcare have also been proposed as foundations to recovery.

Supportive relationships

A common aspect of recovery is said to be the presence of others who believe in the person's potential to recover, and who stand by them. While mental health professionals can offer a particular limited kind of relationship and help foster hope, relationships with friends, family and the community are said to often be of wider and longer-term importance. Others who have experienced similar difficulties, who may be on a journey of recovery, can be of particular importance. Those who share the same values and outlooks more generally (not just in the area of mental health) may also be particularly important. It is said that one-way relationships based on being helped can actually be devaluing, and that reciprocal relationships and mutual support networks can be of more value to self-esteem and recovery.

Empowerment and Inclusion

Empowerment and self-determination are said to be important to recovery, including having control. This can mean developing the confidence for independent assertive decision-making and help-seeking. Achieving Social inclusion may require support and may require challenging stigma and prejudice about mental distress/disorder/difference. It may also require recovering unpracticed social skills or making up for gaps in work history.

Coping strategies

The development of personal coping strategies is said to be an important element. This can involve making use of medication or psychotherapy if the consumer is fully informed and listened to, including about adverse effects and about which methods fit with the consumer's life and their journey of recovery. Developing coping and problem solving skills to manage individual traits and problem issues (which may or may not be seen as symptoms of mental disorder) may require a person becoming their own expert, in order to identify key stress points and possible crisis points, and to understand and develop personal ways of responding and coping.

Wikipedia, the free enclyclopedia &copy 2001-2008 Wikipedia Contributors
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Empowerment. The Official Guide to Empowerment is Lisa Whatley. Lisa Whatley is a highly successful business woman who has a deep understanding of life and a unique way of explaining and simplifying complex subjects. She's a Self Help Empowerment Specialist, Master Energy Medicine Healer, Spiritual Life Coach and Publised Writer specializing in personal transformation growth programs.

Additional Resources covering Empowerment can be found at:

Website Directory for Empowerment
Articles on Empowerment
Products for Empowerment
Discussion Board
Lisa Whatley, the Official Guide To Empowerment