What Exactly is a ‘Recovery-Oriented Approach’ in Mental Health?
Recovery from any mental health illness means recovering a sense of wellness, and includes becoming more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to create a satisfying life for yourself. These aspects of well-being are most adversely affected in a mental health crisis.
A range of services can assist in the recovery from a mental illness, and each individual has unique requirements for their recovery journey. However, there is no doubt that the earlier the individual seeks assistance, the better and quicker their recovery shall be.
Recovery from mental health issues does not equate to a cure. The recovery process, sometimes called ‘personal recovery’, involves creating and living a meaningful life and contributing to your community, whether or not there are mental health issues present.
Recovery involves every aspect of an individual’s life and is not limited to symptom management (which is often called ‘clinical recovery’). It involves:
- finding a sense of resilience and hope within yourself
- having a positive sense of self-esteem
- maintaining a sense of purpose and meaning in life
- building healthy relationships
- gaining physical, emotional, social and financial independence
What are the Five Core Domains of the Recovery Model?
There is no single description of recovery because recovery is a different experience for everyone, however central to all recovery paradigms are five core aspects or domains, namely hope, self-determination, self-management, empowerment and advocacy. In order to meet these domains, service providers should:
- Promote a culture and language of hope and optimism, making people feel valued, important, welcome and safe.
- Put people experiencing mental health issues first at the centre of the practice and service delivery.
- Support personal recovery through self-management.
- Create a workforce that is conducive to recovery and appropriately skilled, equipped and supported for recovery-oriented practice.
- Uphold the human rights of all mental health clients.
Types of Recovery That Can Help Mental Illness
There are two main aspects to recovery in mental health. One is the clinical perspective, and the second is that of a personal recovery perspective.
Clinical recovery is where the symptoms and diagnoses are the major markers that are objectively mapped and measured. A client is considered to have achieved a clinical recovery when they show fewer or no mental illness symptoms and have restored a greater level of social functioning compared to previous assessments.
In contrast, Personal recovery is more subjective, and it is the idea of living a meaningful life, as defined by the person in the context of their experience of mental health problems. Anthony (1993) describes personal recovery as ‘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.’ [Source: Mental Assist]
Personal recovery promotes the individual’s health and well-being, including defining personal recovery goals, building self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience, the ability to maintain relationships, and having a sense of purpose. Personal and clinical recovery are not mutually exclusive but can go hand in hand.
So with that in mind, a recovery-orientated practice is a partnership where the person who has the experience of mental illness is the expert in their recovery, and mental health practitioners bring their understanding and expertise to support this journey.
Tools To Aid Recovery
Many websites and programs for individuals and professionals with mental illness focus on recovery and wellness. This is intended to enhance people’s control of life and mental health, empower them to stay well, improve their quality of life, and help them achieve their goals. It covers different aspects of life, including living skill development, relationships, identity, and confidence. Approaches may include the development of a mental health recovery plan.
What is a Mental Health Recovery Plan?
A mental health recovery plan is designed to assist the client:
- identify what sort of life they want to lead
- work out what steps to take to get there
- acknowledge strengths and interests
- identify supporters and resources
- track fluctuations in mental health
- identify and manage things that might exacerbate their mental state (triggers)
- have a crisis plan in case of relapse
- have a plan for when that crisis is over
For example, the client might decide to live alone, find employment or reconnect with friends or family. With the Mental Health Recovery Plan, the client can establish strategies and supports to best achieve these goals in collaboration with their mental health team.
The Recovery Process
The recovery approach to mental illness is about helping the client to regain control their life. It is an empowering approach to taking control of all aspects of life, not just in terms of mental health symptoms.
When clients take the recovery approach, they work as a team with their doctor and other health professionals to create a plan for achieving their goals and managing their mental health daily. They are at the centre of their care, which will be personal and unique.
Promoting a recovery approach to mental healthcare is part of Australia’s national mental health strategy. It sets out 6 key principles that can help you ensure that mental health services are helping your recovery.
Six Key Principles to Mental Health Recovery:
The Uniqueness of the Individual:
The client should feel supported to build on their unique strengths and live satisfying lives.
Clients should be given enough information to make informed choices about care and treatment and be encouraged to take as much responsibility as possible.
Attitudes and Rights:
Clients should be advised of their legal and human rights and have those respected and promoted during their recovery.
Dignity and Respect:
Clients should feel welcome and respected.
Partnership and Communication:
Clients should be involved in all aspects of care planning and treatment.
Clients should be involved in the review and assessment of their recovery goals.
Research to inform recovery-oriented practice
Recovery has become the central component of policy changes in Australia’s mental health services system, and the national recovery framework was developed in response to the need to improve recovery and promote recovery practices in a broader way.
Recovery-centred approaches are not new in Australia; the movement has been gaining strength and momentum over many years. What began as people with lived experience, carers and advocates seeking greater influence and control over their experiences in mental health services has now expanded to include individual practitioners and organisations beginning to incorporate the recovery approach into their practice and service provision.
The National Recovery Framework document is a guide for mental health practitioners and services to Australia’s national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services. It provides definitions for the concepts of recovery and lived experience. It describes the practice domains and key capabilities necessary for the mental health workforce to function in accordance with recovery-oriented principles. And it guides tailoring recovery-oriented approaches to respond to the diversity of people with mental health issues, people in different life circumstances, ages, and stages.
The national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services provides a vital new policy direction to enhance and improve mental health service delivery in Australia. It brings together a range of recovery-oriented approaches developed in Australia’s states and territories and draws on national and international research to provide a national understanding and approach to recovery-oriented mental health practice and service delivery.
The framework supports cultural and attitudinal change and encourages a fundamental review of the skill mix within the mental health services workforce, including increased input by those with expertise through experience.
Regardless of their role, profession, discipline, seniority or degree of contact with consumers, all people employed in the mental health service system will use the framework to guide their recovery-oriented practice and service delivery. This includes practitioners, leaders, volunteers and people in administrative, policy development, research, program and service planning and decision-making positions.
The framework defines and describes recovery and lived experience, the practice domains and key capabilities necessary for the mental health workforce to function according to recovery-oriented principles, and provides guidance on tailoring recovery-oriented approaches to respond to the diversity of people with mental health issues.
A Different Perspective On the Recovery Model
For most mentally challenged individuals, the concept of healing is about staying in control of their lives instead of returning to a pre-illness state of function. The recovery model consists of identifying symptom areas and identifying a response to them that focuses not just on symptoms. It is a method that is geared towards helping people with mental illness and helping to improve their mental and physical well-being and mental health.
Factors That Support Recovery:
Many factors contribute to a road toward recovery, including establishing good relationships, being financially safe, or fulfilling jobs. The environment provides a platform for personal development and resilience to adversity. Those who have been impacted by traumatic experiences can help them get a better start. Getting an explanation of a problem can help in the pursuit of a successful project. Support is essential in times of crisis.
Nicky’s Personal Account of her Recovery
Everyone’s recovery from mental illness is unique, as shown by this interview with Nicky on the HealthTalk Australia website.
Nicky’s account of her recovery from mental illness began with a reminder that recovery is different for everybody. She thinks it is about making social connections, gaining insight and accepting what’s happened.
“I think everybody recovers, but everyone is different as well in how they recover and, how much they recover, the level of recovery. It means, it means moving on with your life, it means moving forward. It means developing insight into your mental health.
It means gaining an understanding of how you fit into society, how you connect with others and how you become socially connective. Because many people with mental illness don’t connect, it’s very important to connect, develop networks, and access to other services is very important.
So I think it’s very, it’s vital for people to actually get out there and do it slowly at their own pace, you know. Just make little steps forward and connect and make friendships. And it’s all about trust and building relationships and with groups, and groups of people and that, yeah.
And also recovery is about also accepting, accepting what’s happened to you as well because a lot of people don’t accept it. So then, when they don’t accept, they can’t move forward and try new things and discover new things, they sort of focus on the past a lot. So it’s important to, the acceptance factor is important.
And having good social networks around you and family, friends, and carers to support you on the journey. And yeah, and to give you good advice on how to, you know, take things at your own pace, and you know, do it the way you feel capable of doing it.”
Mental Health Services in Recovery-Oriented Approach
Many mental health services can help with recovery. The first step is to see a doctor, who can give advice and refer you to local services. You can also search for services. SANE Australia has a guide to services that can help with recovery from mental illness.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, your doctor can help you get affordable access to other health professionals, such as psychologists and specialty counsellors.
What have we learned: Recovery Model Mental Health
Current approaches to the management of mental illnesses and mental health are based on complementary approaches to care for and management of mental illnesses that are limited to the symptoms. The recovery system gives patients a new dimension in their care by helping them take control of life. This should be an achievable objective for all mental health practitioners.
Interested in a Career in Providing Mental Health Services?
The CHC53315 Diploma of Mental Health from TrainSmart is a 12-month online course that will equip students with all the necessary skills and specialised knowledge in the various aspects of mental health support services.
Studying this course with TrainSmart will allow students to gain access to our Health and Community Service trainers and also undergo 160 hours of work placement in the various mental health support organisations. This course is a great first step towards finding roles as a mental health support worker in the Community Services sector to help mental health sufferers achieve positive health outcomes.