Posted by: ayrshirehealth | June 3, 2012

Recovery – Be careful what you wish for! :by @dtbarron

Recovery – A paradigm shift?

Recovery is a journey, it’s not a destination, it’s intensely personal and belongs only to the individual. Bradstreet & McBrierty in their insightful article describe the journey of ‘recovery’ itself as an underlying belief within the mental health arena in Scotland in changing our collective narrative of mental health care and treatment. This ‘new’ paradigm has been delivered at both national and local level with a varying degree of success, sometimes through local service user leadership at other times through leadership within statutory services


As with any development, progress varies, uptake varies and effectiveness varies. “Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems or illness, is a unique and deeply personal process.” (SRN). Ellis, in his briefing from the Refocus on Recovery conference, organised by the ‘Section for Recovery at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychology (IoP)’ and the mental health charity, ‘Rethink Mental Illness’ (does recovery not occur outside the ‘Section for Recovery’ at Kings College?) highlights ‘concerns’ from respected MH activist and writer @maryohaganlive “I know that there is a real sense that recovery is being hijacked by professionals and I don’t know if people have the same thinking about that in Scotland.” – a view shared by others at the conference.

Sprayed liberally

In Australia the National Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Practice Framework Project Discussion Paper Summary & Consultation Questions (2012) describing ‘recovery’ as “the latest aerosol term in mental health – sprayed on liberally but not applied”. Further, mental health consumer organisations express the concern that the concept has been “…‘colonised’ to the detriment of its integrity…”. The problem however, is not the language of recovery but rather the application of the underpinning values, beliefs and actions that evidence the paradigm shift to ‘recovery’ not only being supported, but also being an expectation. This needs balanced with the understanding that it belongs to the individual – it might not mean getting back to work, it might not mean a college place, it might not mean being off all medication, but equally it might. The enigma faced by professionals is an enthusiasm to embrace ‘recovery’ with the practical application of their inability to drive ‘it’ forward, as in reality it belongs to the individual service user i.e you cannot ‘make’ someone recover.

Appreciative Inquiry

However service users also face the same challenge to continuously recognise that ‘their’ recovery journey may be significantly different from someone else and in doing so allows others to discover the best of what they can be. Adopting an appreciative inquiry approach we should consider it an opportunity that statutory services are adopting the language of ‘recovery’ and use this contemporary narrative as a driver to change practice; in other words continue to challenge services to evidence action from their words, rather than try to wrestle back the language of recovery from statutory services. In that regard the Scottish Recovery Indicator 2 does provide us with a powerful tool with which to self challenge, to ensure that ‘recovery’ is not ‘sprayed liberally’ but is indeed applied in practice.

There is an opportunity that the change in narrative affords us to turn words into actions and behaviours.

Mary O’Hagan challenged delegates at Ayrshire Recovery Network Conference 2010 to continue both their journey from a place of ‘low power’     to one of co-ownership and leadership in ensuring ‘recovery’ in Scotland is not a ‘model’, a ‘Section for Recovery’, a ‘Recovery Ward’ or ‘Recovery Team’, it’s just ‘what we do together’.


Changing the narrative is an early , but underpinning step in that process.

Next week

@colin_r_martin considers the global economic crisis and one potential implication for mental health nursing.

References used within this blog.

Bradstreet, S. & McBrierty, R. (2012) Recovery in Scotland: Beyond service development. International Review of Psychiatry

O’Hagan, M (2010) Ayrshire Recovery Network – annual conference…



  1. “Next week

    @colin_r_martin considers the global economic crisis and one potential implication for mental health nursing.”

    If a politician tried redefining ‘recovery’ in an economic sense, in the way that some mental health professionals are trying to for their patients, they’d be greeted with sneering disdain. Hopefully one day those with mental health problems will be able to expect to be spoken to as honestly and clearly as the rest of society, without the silly word games.

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