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1. Self-Direction

Consumers lead, control, exercise choice over, and determine their own path of recovery by optimizing autonomy, independence, and control of resources to achieve a self-determined life. By definition, the recovery process must be self-directed by the individual, who defines his or her own life goals and designs a unique path towards those goals. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

You may have received so much advice and been told so many things about yourself over the years that you have no idea how to access your inner knowledge. While it takes time and patience, you can learn, or improve your ability, to listen to yourself and to determine what is best and right for you.
- Mary Ellen Copeland, Recovery Movement Leader

2. Individualized & Person-Centered

There are multiple pathways to recovery based on an individual's unique strengths and resiliencies as well as his or her needs, preferences, experiences (including past trauma), and cultural background in all of its diverse representations. Individuals also identify recovery as being an ongoing journey and an end result as well as an overall paradigm for achieving wellness and optimal mental health. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

3. Empowerment

Consumers have the authority to choose from a range of options and to participate in all decisions-including the allocation of resources-that will affect their lives, and are educated and supported in so doing. They have the ability to join with other consumers to collectively and effectively speak for themselves about their needs, wants, desires, and aspirations. Through empowerment, an individual gains control of his or her own destiny and influences the organizational and societal structures in his or her life. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

Empowerment is the belief that one has power and control in their life. Individuals need the education, tools, and support to believe they are capable of reclaiming their lives. Psycho-educational tools include mood charting, medication logs, Wellness Recovery Action Plans, and other workbooks specific to aspects of living with and managing a mental illness.

4. Holistic

Recovery encompasses an individual's whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. Recovery embraces all aspects of life, including housing, employment, education, mental health and healthcare treatment and services, complementary and naturalistic services (such as recreational services, libraries, museums, etc.), addictions treatment, spirituality, creativity, social networks, community participation, and family supports as determined by the person. Families, providers, organizations, systems, communities, and society play crucial roles in creating and maintaining meaningful opportunities for consumer access to these supports. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

Its time to look at the whole person and all the factors that contribute to wellness. The medical model must expand to include this new definition of wellness. In Recovery, people with Mental Illness begin to see themselves as more than their illness. They see their illness as only one facet of who they are as people.

5. Non-Linear

Recovery is not a step-by step process but one based on continual growth, occasional setbacks, and learning from experience. Recovery begins with an initial stage of awareness in which a person recognizes that positive change is possible. This awareness enables the consumer to move on to fully engage in the work of recovery. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

The recovery journey is not a straight line but one with dips and curves like life. While you may feel sometimes like you are back at square one, in truth, you are building skills, strengths and resiliency that will help you get more quickly back on track.

6. Strengths-Based

Recovery focuses on valuing and building on the multiple capacities, resiliencies, talents, coping abilities, and inherent worth of individuals. By building on these strengths, consumers leave stymied life roles behind and engage in new life roles (e.g., partner, caregiver, friend, student, employee). The process of recovery moves forward through interaction with others in supportive, trust-based relationships. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

After World War II, psychology became a science largely devoted to repairing damage using a disease model of human functioning. This almost exclusive attention to pathology neglected the idea of a fulfilled individual and a thriving community, and it neglected the possibility that building strength is the most potent weapon in the arsenal of therapy.

Negative psychology became more acceptable than positive psychology. For every article on human strength, there are 500 on mental illness!

"Psychology is not just the study of weakness & damage, it is also the study of strength & virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is broken, it is nurturing what is best within ourselves." - Martin Seligman, Ph.D

7. Peer Support

Peer support is mutual support-including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills and social learning-plays an invaluable role in recovery. Consumers encourage and engage other consumers in recovery and provide each other with a sense of belonging, supportive relationships, valued roles, and community. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

Peer support provides...

  • Practical help with living on limited income
  • Reciprocal support
  • Friendship-based relationships
  • Experiential Knowledge of having "been there"
  • Credible information about medications and other treatments
  • Consensual validation of experience
  • Skill in helping others identify strengths and goals
  • Proof that recovery happens!

Peer supports can be formal, like peer support specialists that are employed at a mental health agency, but can also be the informal sort of encouragement and listening people who participate in services can provide one another.

8. Respect

Community, systems, and societal acceptance and appreciation of consumers -including protecting their rights and eliminating discrimination and stigma are crucial in achieving recovery. Self-acceptance and regaining belief in one's self are particularly vital. Respect ensures the inclusion and full participation of consumers in all aspects of their lives. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

People make quick judgements and decisions about other people's abilities based on one, simplistic observation. With mental illness, judgements are made about people's intellectual capacity, their emotional state, their ability to work; all sorts of incorrect assumptions are made and limitations imposed as a result of the 'mental illness' tag. This disrespect is reflected in language. Our words then reflect the way we think. Old worn-out language creates a sense of dis-ease in both the people speaking it and the people hearing it.

One of the most powerful ways we can foster respectful relationships is by using language that values the individual as a worthy and capable human being.

9. Responsibility

Consumers have a personal responsibility for their own self-care and journeys of recovery. Taking steps towards their goals may require great courage. Consumers must strive to understand and give meaning to their experiences and identify coping strategies and healing processes to promote their own wellness. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

Allowing people to make their own choices, no matter how different they look from traditional treatment, causes them to take responsibility for themselves and to leave powerlessness behind. And, like all of us, sometimes they will make mistakes. We must allow people to make mistakes.

"Human beings are not geared to staying in one place. If we aren't moving ahead, we seem to drift side to side or slide backwards. Moving under our own power is a key element in the recovery process. This requires us to take responsibility for our situation and to begin to move ahead - making choices and decisions, taking calculated risks, sometimes scaring ourselves awake." -Lori Ashcroft, et al.

10. Hope

Recovery provides the essential and motivating message of a better future- that people can and do overcome the barriers and obstacles that confront them. Hope is internalized; but can be fostered by peers, families, friends, providers, and others. Hope is the catalyst of the recovery process. (From the Consensus Statement Defining Mental Health Recovery.)

Hope is the moment when one's desire is accompanied by the expectation of, or belief in the fulfillment of something better.

People with chronic persistent mental illness have learned to be dependent on the mental health system. They get a disability check. They get food stamps, live in public housing, get reduced fare bus passes. Upon diagnosis, people were told they cannot work, go to school, raise a family or have any stress in their lives. They have learned helplessness.

By telling people they can get well, and helping them take supported risks, they learn to be optimistic about their options and what they can accomplish in their lives.

Perhaps hope arrives, when one takes that first step and dares to dream again.

11. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, illness, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional ways. Resilience was added as a Fundamental of Recovery by the Recovery Transformation Project of the State of Washington, noting that: 
  • Resilient survivors find meaning, purpose, and value in difficult circumstances.
  • We are born with the ability to be made better by life's difficulties.

Resilience is possible for every one of us. Initially it is a situation where we must 'fake it till we make it' to borrow a phrase from AA. In the same way that smiling makes us feel better, trying to learn Resilience has the benefit of helping us become resilient.

With Resilience, one success builds upon another. As we develop our skills of resilience, we create a history of success. Eventually our habit is one of resilience and we begin to thrive rather than simply survive.

Resilience is a muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets.

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Phone 206-263-9000

TTY Relay: 711

Fax: 206-296-0583