In our research, we differentiate between personal recovery and clinical recovery in the context of mental illness. Personal recovery is an understanding that has emerged from people who have personal experience of recovery in, with and from mental illness. Many definitions of recovery have been proposed by those who are experiencing it:
Recovery refers to the lived or real life experience of people as they accept and overcome the challenge of the disability…they experience themselves as recovering a new sense of self and of purpose within and beyond the limits of disability.1
For me, recovery means that I’m not in hospital and I’m not sitting in supported accommodation somewhere with someone looking after me. Since I’ve recovered, I’ve found that in spite of my illness I can still contribute and have an input into what goes on in my life, input that is not necessarily tied up with medication, my mental illness or other illnesses.2
The most widely-cited definition, which underpins most recovery policy internationally, is by Bill Anthony:
Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even within the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.3
It is consistent with the definition proposed by Retta Andresen and colleagues, that recovery involves:
The establishment of a fulfilling, meaningful life and a positive sense of identity founded on hopefulness and self determination.4
The definition used in South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is:
Recovery involves living as well as possible.5
By contrast, clinical recovery is an understanding that has emerged from professional-led research and practice, and involves ‘getting back to normal’ – being symptom-free, in employment or education, living independently, having friends, etc. Our research focus is on personal recovery, not clinical recovery. On this web-site we use the term ‘recovery’ as a shorthand for personal recovery.
2. Scottish Recovery Network (2006) Journeys of Recovery. Stories of hope and recovery from long term mental health problems, Glasgow: Scottish Recovery Network.
3. Anthony WA (1993) Recovery from mental illness: the guiding vision of the mental health system in the 1990s, Innovations and Research, 2, 17-24.
4. Andresen R, Oades L, Caputi P (2003) The experience of recovery from schizophrenia: towards an empirically-validated stage model, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 37, 586-594.
5. South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (2007) Social Inclusion, Rehabilitation and Recovery Strategy 2007-2010. London: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.