Is there recovery for mental-health and substance-use disorders?
For years this question has been debated, and a great deal has been written about recovery from the perspective of the citizen, family member and the mental-health professional. One thing they all agree on: Yes, there is recovery for what we refer to as behavioral-health disorders.
A common definition accepted by many in the field is recovery is a journey of healing and transformation through which people improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.
According to the National Mental Health Information Center and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the recovery pathway is further defined as a process of change involving 10 guiding principles to support a life of recovery:
Hope: The belief recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future – that people can and do overcome the barriers and obstacles confronting them. Hope is the catalyst of the recovery process.
Self-directed: Individuals define their own life goals and design their unique path(s) toward those goals. People optimize their autonomy and independence by leading, controlling and exercising choice over the services and supports assisting their recovery and resilience.
Pathways: Pathways are highly personalized and may include professional clinical treatment, medications, support from families, faith-based approaches and peer support. Recovery is also nonlinear, characterized by continual growth and improved functioning that may involve setbacks over time.
Holistic: Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit and community. This includes all aspects of life, including housing, employment, education, integrated health-care treatment, complementary and naturalistic services, addictions treatment, spirituality, creativity, social networks, community participation and family supports as determined by the individual.
Peers: Mutual support – including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills, as well as social learning – plays an invaluable role in recovery. Peers encourage and engage other peers and provide each other with a vital sense of belonging, supportive relationships, valued roles and community.
Social Networks: The presence and involvement of people who believe in the person’s ability to recover; who offer hope, support and encouragement; and who also suggest strategies and resources for change.
Cultural: Culture and cultural background in all of its diverse representations including values, traditions and beliefs are keys in determining a person’s journey and unique pathway to recovery.
Addressing Trauma: Services and supports should be trauma-informed to foster safety and trust, as well as promote choice, empowerment and collaboration.
Strengths and Responsibility: Individuals, families and communities have strengths and resources serving as a foundation for recovery. In addition, individuals have a personal responsibility for their own self-care and journey of recovery.
Respect: Community, systems and societal acceptance and appreciation for people affected by behavioral-health problems – including protecting their rights and eliminating discrimination – are crucial in achieving recovery.
It is important as a community to recognize behavioral-health recovery not only benefits people with these disabilities by focusing on their abilities to live, work, learn and fully participate in our society; it also enriches the texture of American community life. America reaps the benefits of the contributions people with behavioral-health disabilities can make, ultimately becoming a stronger and healthier nation.
Liza Fischer is the Office of Member and Family Affairs coordinator for Axis Health System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 335-2206.