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Elements of recovery

It has been emphasized that each individual's journey to recovery is a deeply personal process, as well as being related to the individual's community and society. A number of features have been proposed as core elements:


Finding and nurturing hope is a key to recovery. It is said to include not just optimism but a belief in oneself which is SUSTAINED! There is also a willingness to persevere through uncertainty and difficult times and situations. Hope may suddenly appear at a definitive “turning point”, or emerge gradually and alternating with despair. Hope involves trusting, and risking disappointment, failure and further hurt.

Secure base

Appropriate housing, a sufficient income, freedom from violence, and adequate access to health care have also been proposed. It has been suggested that home is where recovery may begin but that housing services and the "continuum of care concept" have failed to flexibly involve people and build on their personal visions and strengths, instead "placing" and "reinstitutionalizing" them.


Recovery of a strong sense of self has been proposed as an important element. A research review suggested that people sometimes achieve this by "positive withdrawal"—regulating social involvement and negotiating public space in order to only move towards others in a way that feels safe yet meaningful; and nurturing personal psychological space that allows room for developing understanding and a broad sense of self, interests, spirituality, etc. It was suggested that the process is usually greatly facilitated by experiences of interpersonal acceptance, mutuality, and a sense of social belonging; and is often challenging in the face of the typical barrage of overt and covert negative messages that come from the broader social context.

Supportive relationships

A common aspect of recovery is said to be the presence of others who believe in the person's potential to recover, and who stand by them. While mental health professionals can offer a particular limited kind of relationship and help foster hope, relationships with friends, family and the community are said to often be of wider and longer-term importance. Others who have experienced similar difficulties, who may be on a journey of recovery, can be of particular importance. Those who share the same values and outlooks more generally (not just in the area of mental health) may also be particularly important. It is said that one-way relationships based on being helped can actually be devaluing, and that reciprocal relationships and mutual support networks can be of more value to self-esteem and recovery.

Empowerment and Inclusion

Empowerment and self-determination are said to be important to recovery, including having self control. This can mean developing the confidence for independent assertive decision making and help-seeking. Achieving social inclusion may require support and may require challenging stigma and prejudice about mental distress/disorder/difference. It may also require recovering unpracticed social skills or making up for gaps in work history.

Coping strategies

The development of personal coping strategies (including self-management or self-help) is said to be an important element. This can involve making use of medication or psychotherapy if the consumer is fully informed and listened to, including about adverse effects and about which methods fit with the consumer's life and their journey of recovery. Developing coping and problem solving skills to manage individual traits and problem issues (which may or may not be seen as symptoms of mental disorder) may require a person becoming their own expert, in order to identify key stress points and possible crisis points, and to understand and develop personal ways of responding and coping.

Being able to move on can mean having to cope with feelings of loss, which may include despair and anger. When an individual is ready, this can mean a process of grieving. It may require accepting past suffering and lost opportunities or lost time.


Developing a sense of meaning and overall purpose is said to be important for sustaining the recovery process. This may involve recovering or developing a social or work role. It may also involve renewing, finding or developing a guiding philosophy, religion, politics or culture. From a postmodern perspective, this can be seen as developing a narrative.