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Fostering Recovery from Life-transforming Mental Health Disorders: A Synthesis and Model

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In the past, ‘recovery’ from serious mental health problems has been variously defined and generally considered rare. Current evidence suggests that some form of recovery is both possible and common, yet we know little about the processes that differentiate those who recover from those who do not. This paper discusses approaches to defining recovery, proposes a model for fostering, understanding, and studying recovery, and suggests questions for clinicians, researchers, and policy makers. The proposed model is a synthesis of work from the field of mental health as well as from other disciplines. Environment, resources, and strains, provide the backdrop for recovery; core recovery processes include development, learning, healing, and their primary behavioral manifestation, adaptation. Components facilitating recovery include sources of motivation (hope, optimism, and meaning), prerequisites for action (agency, control, and autonomy), and capacity (competence and dysfunction). Attending to these aspects of the recovery process could help shape clinical practice, and systems that provide and finance mental health care, in ways that promote recovery.Social Theory & Health (2004) 2, 293–314. doi:10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700036

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, CB669, 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR, USA. 2: 2The Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, USA, Email:

Publication date: November 1, 2004


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