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The best of Hopeworks: Giving birth to a culture of recovery

Posted Aug 03 2012 4:46am

We seldom see more than we expect to see.  More and more people talk about a recovery model.  The consensus that the medical model is limited and so often part of the problem is growing stronger and stronger.  Yet how does this impact what is real?  We dont just need a recovery model.  Those who become involved in the mental health system need to experience a culture of recovery.  The need to experience a way of seeing things, a way of doing things that affirms their worth as people and treats the idea of flourishing in life as real and possible.  The message sadly that many get from their exposure to the mental health is not this.  They learn they are damaged, deficient and that being realistic means accepting that defiency.  They learn that a lifetime of psychotropic medication is something to be expected and that the people who “care” for them have little or no reluctance to engage in the most coercive of practices for “their own good.”

What are some of the assumptions that a recovery based system makes?

  1. Individuals matter.  No degree of impairment or difficulty make them matter less.
  2. If an individual is important what is important to that individual is important: his thoughts, feelings, goals, aspirations, and interests.  No degree of impairment makes those things matter least.
  3. If an individual matters then recovery is not about what others develop for him, but about what he chooses for himself.
  4. The primary thing that is recovered is the ability to make informed decisions about life based on the tools acquired, the knowledge gained, the success experienced, and the continuing care and support of others.
  5. Mental health professionals are often essential for recovery, but their appropriate role is as a consultant or coach and not direct supervisor.
  6. Recovery assumes that hope is a real thing.  Life can and should be a movement towards better things.  The steps may be slow and require much in the way of patience, but no matter how slow or small they are they are real and should be valued and treasured.
  7. Recovery assumes that mental illness does not cause you to lose anything essential to being a human being.  Mental illness may block you.  It may disrupt you.  It may damage you.  It may detour you.  It does not diminish what it means for you to be a human being.
  8. Recovery assumes personal responsibility.  It is not something done to you.  It is not something you are given as much as it is something you get.
  9. Recovery assumes that you can develop and maintain relationships with other people.  That you can love and are worthy of being loved.
  10. Recovery assumes that you can support and help others, that often, the greatest help you get is in the help you give.
  11. Recovery assumes that mental illness does not make a happy life a delusional concept.
  12. Recovery assumes that mental illness (or whatever term you choose to substitute there) is real and the pain and desperation it brings to human life is real and that everyone is entailed to the help they need to regain the life they deserve to have a chance to live.
  13. Recovery assumes that people are biological, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual beings and recovery to be real and meaningful may have to address each of these dimensions.
  14. Recovery assumes commitment.  It is not a given, a right or an entitlement.  While very possible it assumes the commitment of those seeking it and their determination to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
  15. Recovery assumes that all of us are more than the names we are called or the labels placed upon us and to reduce us to these names or labels is inherently unfair, wrong and misses the reality of who we are.
  16. Recovery assumes that since it is an individual thing and each of us has our own burdens that recovery will vary with each person in speed, distance, and kind.
  17. Recovery assumes that while some burdens can be surmounted, others must be lived with and that recovery helps us to learn the difference and develop the skills to do each.

Spread the word.  The emperor has no clothes.  It is time for us to develop a system which helps people address the distress in their life without denying the possibilities of life that are there for all human beings


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