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Recovery: Why is it being redefined to mean “doing better but still mentally ill”?

A lot of efforts to transform an often oppressive mental health have focused on “recovery” and making the mental health system more “recovery focused.” Many agencies have integrated the notion of recovery into their practice, and if the use of this word were a measure of progress, we would be well on our way to system transformation! Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is that as the word “recovery” is used more and more, it seems to mean less and less. I know someone for example who is on heavy doses of an antipsychotic as well as other medications, lives in a foster care home, and spends most of his daytime hours in a mental health day treatment program, yet is assured by his case managers that he is “recovered.”

More at this recovery page.

7 comments… add one
  • this co-opting of the word recovery has been going on for many years. it makes me want to come up with another word…

    it’s very 1984 to call someone who is semi-nonfunctional in recovery and it’s happening all the time.


  • One way to “reclaim the concept” is to use the phrase “full recovery.” It’s harder to twist the meaning when stated that way….

  • Not so long ago, Marion Aslan and Olga Runciman – both of who you may know from the Hearing Voices Network – have started an initiative in Britain: EleMental. Living in Denmark, Olga Runciman is now replaced by Mike Smith, who you certainly have heard of.

    EleMental uses the term “thriving” instead of “recovery”, exactly because the concept of recovery has almost been turned upside down into meaning “living with a chronic illness” by a mh system, that continuously denies the possibility of true recovery.

    Very interesting list of differences between “thriving” and “recovery” here:

    EleMental also has a YouTube channel: Awesome vids!

  • that recovery/thriving thing goes too far…we are human…no one always thrives and we all have limitations some of the time…they describing super-people.

    there needs to be gray areas in my mind…if one is honest about the nature of being human.

    just not to the point that the mental health system is creating.

  • mj: I don’t think, EleMental describes super-people. As I understand them, they pretty much acknowledge limitations, suffering, distress. What they reject is a view of our natural limitations, suffering and distress as being illnesses, genetic defects, abnormal and unnatural. And they reject that anyone else but the person who experiences limitations, suffering and distress would have a right to define these for the person who experiences them. I pretty much agree to that.

  • Disagree that no one thrives.. Im proud to work with people who despite adversity prove that the human psyche overcomes and triumphs. Thriving is a state of mind. Too many professionals – and people with a lived experience – put limits on the human ability to live life to its fullest. Think Iggy Pop – lust for life!!!

  • The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to live life to it’s fullest. The biggest sin is for someone to take that gift away…


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