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Mental Health Recovery

What is Recovery?

Clinical recovery vs. personal recovery

Most mental health professionals focus on clinical recovery: relieving specific mental health symptoms. When prescribed treatment significantly reduces or eliminates these symptoms, they consider their job done.


But people experiencing mental health issues tell us they need more. They usually focus on wellness at a broader human level. They seek personal recovery.


Personal recovery includes enhanced social functioning, self-determination, and a sense of purpose. It includes an inner peace in addition to outer symptom reduction. It is a process the individual ultimately leads; it is not something done to them.


"... Personal recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed and fulfilling life, work toward a meaningful purpose, and create loving and supportive relationships, even if some limitations persist..."


Why is this expanded definition of personal recovery important? 


Because serious mental illness can do harm far beyond the mental health symptoms. It threatens our personhood and our sense of self, and can affect every facet of our lives and the lives of those around us. Because the impact is that expansive, we need an expansive definition of recovery.

For decades, the question of recovery has been debated by clinicians and by people who experience mental health challenges, with often differing opinions. We are now beginning to reach common ground.


Fundamentals of recovery

We make the following assertions about recovery. 

  • Seek personal recovery. People want personal recovery. It often starts with, but isn’t limited to the relief of clinical symptoms.

  • Persistent effort. Those who seek personal recovery must work diligently to create it. There is no free lunch. We also must be patient, realizing that setbacks are a part of the journey.

  • Self-determination. This is your life. Trust yourself. No one can recover for you, but acting alone is often ill-advised. Doctors, therapists, family, and others can be important supporters and guides, so collaboration with them can be key.

  • Expect Recovery. Why? Because non-drug approaches are supported by extensive scientific evidence and countless positive case studies. A positive expectation can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, since it motivates us to take the necessary steps to create our own recovery.

  • Think beyond drugs. Psychotropic drugs alone are insufficient. They can be very helpful in reducing some symptoms, but non-drug approaches are necessary.

Your unique journey

There is no cookie-cutter approach to mental health recovery. And the journey offers few shortcuts. But, there are clear maps that mark the way, written in the sweat of thousands who have faced similar challenges and recovered. 


To aid your journey, consider the many recovery options for depression, anxiety, bipolar, and schizophrenia.  

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