The Recovery Approach

The Recovery Approach: A Brief Introduction

The Recovery approach is St Mungo’s Broadway’s guiding principle and the overarching ethos for all services.

The concept of the recovery approach for service users is founded in human values and their application by the user, professionals and the service itself. Its objective is to achieve health and wellbeing regardless of the degree of disability or distress of the individual.

It requires a shift in thinking from pathology and illness to self determination, life stories, human strengths, hopes and dreams, peer support and control by the user with support from professionals as partners, mentors and advocates.

It should be rooted in cultural, social, religious and ethnic diversity that gives meaning to the person’s identity, belief and circumstance.

To promote the recovery approach, staff should re-evaluate their role in the support process to one of negotiation, partnership and trial and error.

Service organisations need to enable and support staff in practicing in this way by adopting a culture of creativity, innovation, openness, encouragement for diversity and recognition for good practice.

Service providers will ensure that the user is at the centre of the process working with the client to achieve their (the users) outcomes. The core beliefs in a recovery-orientated service are:

    • Choice. Clients are able to choose their interventions in discussion with their workers, families and significant others.

    • Ownership. Service providers accept that the client owns their own experience and that they (the clients) are experts of this experience.

    • Interventions. Service providers accept that recovery is a process not a model and that every client will have a service developed around their expressed wishes, needs and hopes.

    • People. The client should be able to choose the people they want to deliver their agreed interventions.

    • Opportunities. The client should have available the same life opportunities as a person without a mental health, substance dependency or homelessness issue.

People often ask, “Recovery from what?”

And we have to understand what this word ‘recover’ means. For us, what we’ve come to understand ‘recovery’ to mean is simply this: remembering who you are and using your strengths to be all you were meant to be. What happens to so many people when they get labelled with a mental illness is they forget who they are and, in fact, many times, become that label”.

Gene Johnson

Here are some insights exploring the recovery approach.

Pat Deegan Psychologist and Author

  • Recovery …. is a hopeful attitude, a way of approaching the day.

  • Recovery is a dimension beyond rehabilitation it may involve a kind of transformation

  • Recovery is a unique (individual) journey

  • Insightfulness of problems is not the same as accepting the illness diagnosis

  • Recovery may not mean symptom free

Ron Coleman Author and Voice Hearer

Recovery requires self-confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness and self-acceptance – it is a liberating process, a social process and one in which practitioners need to believe.”

Rufus May Clinical Psychologist

My recovery process involved rest and good food, but the hardest part was raising people’s (including my own) expectations of myself.

Helen Glover Author & Social Worker

  • Everyone has potential for recovering

  • People around someone…..are important holders of hope

  • The journey of recovering is at least as important as the end point

  • Chronicity is a natural trap, so that any ‘failing’ on the journey of recovering is seen as a part of illness, whereas those who are not psychotic attribute ‘mistakes’ as part of being human.

  • Recovering starts with the workforce

Larry Davidson Researcher

This whole process leads to a finding
of the
functional rather than the dysfunctional self.”

It’s about our culture and changing beliefs

So, this is a simple paradigm that I like to use, because it says something about how the results in our culture are created, and it starts first with what we believe to be true. What we think, in our minds. The world is flat – no, it’s round. So we change our mind. In this case, the results are produced by the actions that we engage in, which create an experience that further validates our belief.

So, in our system, often, we’ve had nonrecovery results show up because we didn’t believe recovery was possible. We didn’t believe that people could take on their life, we didn’t believe that people could take care of themselves and make decisions, and that we had to take care of them. And so we engaged in actions and created programs that were built on maintenance and stabilisation and caretaking, and so forth. And of course, the experience then was not recovery, because we didn’t believe it was possible. So, again, we have to change our mind, to produce recovery results first by believing that everybody can recover.

If we really embrace that, if we really believe that, it has huge implications for the actions that we engage in, and it’s been my experience that then people have the experience of recovery in their lives. What we believe, creating actions, creating experience that reinforces the belief.

So, we changed our mind, and ten years ago, we were a traditional mental health provider in our mental health system with the usual kinds of staff and the usual kinds of services and treatment and so forth. As we started to listen to people about their experiences of having received services from us, they told us that our mission statement, which was to be the premier provider of crisis stabilisation services, wasn’t very inspiring.

Gene Johnson

Organisational Change

These are suggested changes an organisation needs to embed the recovery approach.

1) Changing the nature of day-to-day interactions and the quality of experience

2) Delivering comprehensive, user-led education and training programmes

3) Establishing a ‘Recovery Education Unit’ to drive the programmes forward

4) Ensuring organisational commitment, creating the ‘culture’. The importance of leadership

5) Increasing ‘personalisation’ and choice

6) Changing the way we approach risk assessment and management

7) Redefining user involvement

8) Transforming the workforce

9) Supporting staff in their recovery journey

10) Increasing opportunities for building a life ‘beyond illness’

From Implementing Recovery: A new framework for organisational change,

Sainsbury Centre, 2009

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Tracking Gerald O'Connell's artist-in-residence project at St. Mungo's Broadway Trust

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