Recovery Principles

Girl walking over stepping stones in water- Photo Courtesy of Daniel I Obubo, with thanks.

From the perspective of the individual with mental illness, recovery means gaining and retaining hope, understanding of ones abilities and disabilities, engagement in an active life, personal autonomy, social identity, meaning and purpose in life, and a positive sense of self.

Recovery is about building a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by the person themselves, whether or not there are ongoing or recurring mental health symptoms or problems.


Recovery represents a movement away from pathology, illness and symptoms to health, strengths and wellness.


Hope is central to recovery and can be enhanced by each person seeing how they can have more active control over their lives and by seeing how others have found a way forward.


Self-management is encouraged and facilitated. The processes of self-management are similar, but what works may be very different for each individual. No ‘one size fits all’.


The helping relationship between clinicians and patients moves away from being expert / patient to being ‘coaches’ or ‘partners’ on a journey of discovery. Clinicians are there to be “on tap, not on top”.


People do not recover in isolation. Recovery is closely associated with social inclusion and being able to take on meaningful and satisfying social roles within local communities, rather than in segregated services.


Recovery is about discovering – or re-discovering – a sense of personal identity, separate from illness or disability.


The language used and the stories and meanings that are constructed have great significance as mediators of the recovery process. These shared meanings either support a sense of hope and possibility, or invite pessimism and chronicity.


The development of recovery-based services emphasises the personal qualities of staff as much as their formal qualifications. It seeks to cultivate their capacity for hope, creativity, care, compassion, realism and resilience.


Family and other supporters are often crucial to recovery and they should be included as partners wherever possible. However, peer support is central for many people in their recovery.


Adapted from Recovery – Concepts and Application by Laurie Davidson, the Devon Recovery Group.


"Life's ups and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals. Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want." 


By Marsha Sinetar 

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use them.