Psychological Recovery

Psychological Recovery: Beyond Mental Illness

Psychological recovery has been described as "...the establishment of a fulfilling and meaningful life and a positive sense of identity founded on hopefulness and self determination." Andresen (2003, p.588).

This definition is in contrast to those based on symptoms and functioning, which have become the mainstay of mental health outcome measures. In keeping with the philosophies of the consumer recovery movement, the stage model of psychological recovery and the related measures reflect the tenets of the positive psychology movement by focusing on building an authentic and fulfilling life, regardless of ongoing symptoms or treatment. Mental health consumer and advocate Pat Deegan described recovery this way:

Recovery is not cure, stabilisation or maintenance – it is a self-directed process of reclaiming meaning and purpose in life. The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never repeated human being that we are called to be. (Deegan, 2001)

With a growing international movement to transform mental health services into becoming recovery-oriented, the model helps to bridge the gap between established outcome goals and demands of consumers for a more holistic approach in mental health services. The measures offer an alternative or complementary method of assessing an individual’s progress, or evaluating a treatment approach or a service.

The Stage Model of Psychological Recovery

The stage model of psychological recovery comprises four psychological processes occurring over five stages. The psychological processes of recovery were derived from the experiential accounts of many consumers.

The four processes are:

  • Hope - finding and maintaining hope for recovery and a better future;
  • Responsibility - taking responsibility for wellness and control of life generally:
  • Identity - establishing a positive identity, and
  • Meaning - finding meaning and purpose in life.

The five stages of recovery are briefly described as:

  • Moratorium - A stage of hopelessness and self-protective withdrawal.
  • Awareness - The realisation that recovery and a fulfilling life is possible.
  • Preparation - The search for personal resources and external sources of help.
  • Rebuilding - Taking positive steps towards meaningful goals.
  • Growth - A sense of control over one's life and looking forward to the future.

A more complete description of the model and its development can be found in the following article:

Andresen, R., Oades, L., & Caputi, P. (2003). The experience of recovery from schizophrenia: towards an empirically-validated stage model. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 37, 586–594.

A copy of this article is available from the publisher’s website.

The book “Psychological Recovery: Beyond Mental Illness” is recommended reading for those wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical background to the model. The book is rich in consumer quotes illustrating the personal experience of recovery, and contains many references which may be used to guide the development of treatment approaches and research programs.