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What does recovery mean?

The idea that someone with a mental health problem can experience ‘recovery’ is now more commonly accepted.  Historically, to ‘recover’ has been interpreted as the person being free of symptoms, or being restored to their former level of health.  Now, the focus is more about coping with difficulties and experiencing a good quality of life.


  • is like a journey that someone goes through, with ups and downs, gaining experience and skills along the way and adjusting positively to the challenges that they may face in life
  • requires a mental health service to be optimistic – helping to support people to lead meaningful lives, rather than being centred around dealing with their problems
  • is about fostering a sense of hope for the service user and supporting the service user to develop a sense of control over their lives. Services aim to be ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’ or ‘doing for.’

Additional resources relating to supporting mental health and recovery during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Mental Health Foundation website support for people recovering.

Rethink has additional resources to support people with mental illness.

The Centre for Mental Health has extra resources including links to a range of useful documents.

Want to know more?

The Recovery Star is designed for adults managing their mental health and recovering from mental illness. It looks at 10 different aspects of someone’s life, and guides the person to get a sense of how well they are achieving in each aspect. This can then help the individual to acknowledge that there could be some developments in specific areas, and to focus on developing and growing in a particular aspect of their life.

The Mental Health Foundation has some useful and informative pages on the recovery model.

Rethink’s website has some useful pages about recovery, with testimonials from services users about how different aspects of recovery created positive change in their lives. There are also a range of factsheets on the site including 100 Ways to support recovery; A guide for mental health professionals – Rethink report by Mike Slade (2013)

Closing the Gap: ‘Priorities for essential change in mental health’ (Department of Health document) has a number of priorities for improving mental health, the first of which states: High-quality mental health services with an emphasis on recovery should be commissioned in all areas, reflecting local need.

The Centre for Mental Health website has a wide range of useful recovery material including Making Recovery a Reality in Forensic Settings ImROC (Implementing Recovery Through Organisational Change)  Published by Centre for Mental Health Network, NHS Confederation 2014.  Written by Gerard Drennan and James Wooldridge together with Anne Aiyegbusi, Debbie Alred, Joe Ayres, Richard Barker, Sally Carr, Helen Eunson, Hilary Lomas, Estelle Moore, Debbie Stanton & Geoff Shepherd.

You can also find out about other Tools for Recovery here.

Other useful documents hosted on our site include:

The Recovery Vision for Mental Health Services and Research - A British Perspective (90.2 KiB)

 – Paper by J Turner-Crowson and J Wallcroft (2002), Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, Winter 2002 – Vol. 25 no.3.pp 245-254

Recovery Best Practices - Emerging Best Practices in Mental Health Recovery. National Institute for Mental Health in England (310.2 KiB)

 – Emerging Best Practices in Mental Health Recovery. National Institute for Mental Health in England (2004)

Recovery Measures - Can We Measure Recovery? (1.2 MiB)

– A compendium of Recovery and Recovery-Related Instruments. Produced by The Evaluation Centre @ HSRI and prepared by Ruth O. Ralph, PhD, Kathryn Kidder, MA and Dawna Phillips, M.P.H. (2000)

Recovery or Discovery? (26.0 KiB)

– A paper by Julie Repper (2005)

Making Recovery A Reality (454.0 KiB)

 – Policy Paper – Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health; G.Shepherd, J Boardman & M Slade (2008)

Implementing Recovery - A Methodology for Organisational Change (425.6 KiB)

 – Policy paper – Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, G.Shepherd, J Boardman & M Slade (2009)


Helpful services for carers
Recovery resources for professionals