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The recovery model

Last updated Thursday, 21st Feb 2013

Recovery is a word often used to describe the process a person with mental health issues goes through to move forward in their life. For some people this can be about returning to a state of feeling well and content, for others it can be about rebuilding their life after a period of illness and understanding more about how to manage problems related to their health and lifestyle.

For many people, recovery is about achieving the best quality of life possible whilst living with ongoing symptoms. The concept of recovery is not the same as 'cure', it is for the person to choose whether to enter recovery and to define and lead this. Recovery shouldn't depend on any one factor such as being in work. It is individual and there should be no benchmark of what someone's recovery should look like or how quickly they need to achieve goals. There may be setbacks and a need to change parts of life that otherwise make problems more likely. Some people may feel an experience of mental illness can lead to positive changes as they develop resilience and rediscover parts of themselves not used for a long time, or decide what they really want to do with their life.

‘For me, recovery was about getting my life back on track. It was about taking control of things and looking to the future again.’

The recovery model

Mental health professionals often talk about using the recovery model or adopting a recovery approach in their work. This means that they aim to help people by encouraging them to think about their strengths and abilities and the changes they can make in their lives to take control, reach their goals and achieve improved mental wellbeing. The role of mental health services needs to reflect supportive relationships while working together with the person they are supporting, listening and coaching as well as seeing the person has a range of needs not only those relating to their mental health. You may want to look at the recovery section of Kent and Medway NHS Social Care and Partnership Trust's website for more information about how the mental health trust supports people with recovery.

What can help with recovery?

Everyone is different, but it seems that there are some things which most people find help them on their road to recovery:

  • accepting you have a mental health condition
  • understanding your mental health issue and how it affects you
  • finding support from an organisation or support group that focuses on the kind of mental health problem you experience
  • good relationships with friends and family or finding new contacts if you feel quite lonely or isolated
  • having enough money
  • some work or a social activity - such as voluntary or paid work or doing things which build your social confidence
  • a good place to live where you feel safe
  • looking after yourself – eating well and taking some exercise
  • speaking with others who have had similar experiences
  • being listened to and being believed in
  • keeping a sense of hope
  • being well supported if you need to step back from your responsibilities or if you are experiencing a crisis. (Many people use different support services even when feeling they are 'in recovery'.)

How professionals promote recovery

This video from the Social Care Institute for Excellence explains more about how mental health professionals work with people to promote recovery.

More information about the recovery model

These websites have more information about the recovery model:

  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Mind
  • Rethink


    Recovery A-Z