People of Recovery
The figure above identifies key people who can help in our recovery.
Although we need a strong sense of personal self-determination, we must resist the urge to run solo. Many people can help, either actively or by their encouragement.
The inner portion of the diagram depicts personal support. It starts with “You” – the person with mental health issues. Your personal network then expands outward, from family, to friends, to your community. These people already know you and care about you and can be strong allies in recovery.
Professional Support Network
The outer portion of the diagram is professional support. It includes people with varied specialization, training and licensing. There is a tendency to regard the psychiatrist as the most important team member since they are doctors.
However, it is best to consider them all to be peers—with each other and with you. Each brings a unique perspective, with some filling multiple roles. They have one job: to help you recover on your terms, and you should continually evaluate them on that basis.
The major professionals involved in recovery are:
Biomedical Practitioners focus on the physical issues of mental health. They run robust lab tests looking for thyroid disorders, nutrient imbalances, digestive issues, inflammation and other biomedical issues commonly associated with mental distress. They then treat what they find. This is vital since 25% of the time mental distress is caused by or exacerbated by physical issues. When out of crisis, this is an important first step. See biomedical practitioners for mental health for more detail, including directories to help you find one. Psychiatrists rarely include biomedical testing as part of their practice so you will likely need to expand your treatment team to gain access.
Psychosocial Therapists focus on psychological development and how we relate to our world. They offer “talking therapy” and other ways to address past traumas, emotional difficulties, and unhelpful thinking. Psychologists and psychotherapists are examples. More broadly, a “therapist” specializes in any recovery approach including biofeedback, massage, acupuncture, etc. Childhood trauma is highly associated with schizophrenia and to a lesser extent bipolar.
Psychiatrist drug prescribers are medical doctors that diagnose and treat mental distress with psychiatric drugs. Most psychiatric drugs are prescribed by general practitioners (GPs), however psychiatrists have the greatest training in psychiatric diagnosis and drug use. Integrative psychiatrists prescribe drugs when needed but use a much broader set of options to help restore wellness. If in crisis call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for assistance.
Peer Support is provided by people who have recovered from mental health issues. This “I’ve been there” support can be extremely valuable.
Psychiatric Rehabilitation (PR) helps people function better in society, gain employment and housing, and improve their overall wellness. The Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association is a major U.S. PR organization. PR workers have a variety of titles including case worker and social worker.
Nondrug specialists are trained in a subset of therapies that have been shown effective for mental health. This includes acupuncturists, dietitians, yoga specialists, spiritual emergence coaches, and more.
In the U.S., Community Mental Health organizations bring a variety of these mental health professionals together. They typically offer psychotropics, case management, and psychosocial therapies. Access is limited, but people on Medicaid with severe mental health issues often can gain free services.