Some recovery principles

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by Warren Heggarty

A possible definition of “recovery” is “a journey of healing and transformation that enables a person to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice and achieve their full potential. Having the following ten elements as a part of your journey will contribute to achieving a true recovery process.

1. Hope

I once heard a support worker say, “Sometimes when people lose all hope, we can give them a lend of our own.” The implication is that hope is like respect and trust: it is both given and received.

2. Responsibility

Taking responsibility for our own lives is so important to recovery. With responsibility comes freedom, and the more you have of one, the more you have of the other.

3. Self-direction

A person who accesses one of our services (ie, you) must make the decision to direct the course of their recovery as independently as they can manage. Support workers, by the same token, should be aware that people have a natural tendency to become dependent on support services, so their job is only to support, not to be a “nanny.”

4. Individualised and person-centred

That means it’s all about the person, a whole person: not just an illness. Our individual, person-lead needs involve work and meaningful activities, spirituality, identifying with our culture, sport, music, travel, education at all stages of life, and social interaction with our friends and family. Every client is different.

5. Empowerment

Support workers are not there to “do things for people,” but to support people doing things for themselves.

6. Holistic

This doesn’t mean some New Age fad! Holistic means that people living with mental health issues also have lives beyond that issue. So, too, we need to be aware of our physical health, which often gets neglected when there are psychiatric symptoms. Another word for holistic is “integrated.”

7. Non-linear

The course of life has its ups and downs, so it’s not surprising this also applies to people living with a mental health issue.

8. Strengths-based

The experience of mental health issue can be character building in itself, especially when you reach the point of starting a recovery journey. Rather than looking at what we cannot do (yet!), it’s better to build on what we can do.

9. Peer support

Our peers, our friends and our families are important to our recovery. There are things they understand that aren’t taught at medical school.

10. Respect and trust

We need to be prepared to give and receive both. Taking personal responsibility for our own lives and decisions simply won’t work unless there is a two-way flow of respect and trust.

Note: This article is based on an amalgamation of principles adopted by bodies in the USA and UK. Of course, as your recovery is ultimately your responsibility, feel free to change the list to suit your own needs.

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