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What is Recovery

Recovery from Mental Illness/Mental Distress

There are a number of ways in which we can define recovery though within psychiatry there tends to be three ways in which recovery is understood and defined. These are:

Clinical recovery as the term implies means the absence of symptoms either due to them being eradicated by treatment and the person being cured, or the absence of symptoms because the treatment is suppressing or controlling them.

It does not matter which of these definitions you use as much as the theory that underpins them. The essential of clinical recovery is that the recovery process occurs because of the effectiveness of the clinical treatment.

Like clinical recovery our starting point in this chapter should be a working definition of social recovery. Unlike clinical recovery such a definition is difficult, due in no small measure to the differing contexts in which the word social is used within the field of mental health. For the purposes of this paper the emphasis will be upon a behavioural construct of social recovery which views the recovery process as the persons ability or lack of to interact in a particular way within society.

The reason for using this type of definition is that it is the one that most professionals seem to buy into when talking about social recovery. Warner in Recovery from Schizophrenia (1994) attempts to define social recovery as an outcome measure stating;

"If outcome is measured in terms of social functioning, the investigator may look at any combination of a range of features including the following: working ability, capacity to care for basic needs, abnormal behaviour causing distress to others, criminal activity, number of friends or sexual functioning".

This definition warrants close scrutiny so that we can test whether it is valid to define social recovery in terms of the above statement. Warner reduces the definition further when he argues that there is a need to "impose some consistency" when doing retrospective research on outcome studies and comes up with the following shortened definition;

"Economic and residential independence and low social disruption".

There is however a third definition being used often by service users to define their own recoveries this is:

If recovery is not to be viewed as a clinical construct then we must develop a different context in which the notion of recovery can be discussed. Within the introduction I have contextualised recovery as personal with the individual being best placed to define what recovery is. This does not mean that recovery occurs in a vacuum and that the individual goes it alone separated from society. Rather I believe that recovery is a liberating experience, which is experienced through the politicisation of the self within the wider society. What we cannot get away from is the role that the self plays within the decision making process.

[From "Recovery An Alien Concept" By Ron Coleman published by P&P Press]
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