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What is the Recovery Model for Mental Health? 

recovery model for mental illness

Recovery is a process of change in which a person aims to improve their health, take control of their lives, and reach their fullest potential. However, this is a working definition of recovery. According to an article in the National Library of Medicine, there is not one single definition of recovery for people with a mental health disorder. There are, however, some guiding principles that emphasize two key points: 

  1. Recovery from mental illness is possible. 
  1. Recovery should be highly personal and patient-centered. 

These guiding principles reinforce what’s now known as “the recovery model” for mental health care. The recovery model for mental illness is a holistic, patient-centered approach to thinking about and treating individuals with psychiatric and mood disorders.  

What is the Recovery Model for Mental Health? 

The recovery model for mental health is the new standard in mental health care. This framework is built on the idea that recovery is achievable for those struggling with mental illness, despite their persistent symptoms. The recovery model emphasizes that these individuals can regain control over their lives, overcome their challenges, and live purposefully. The recovery model for mental health is all about having individuals build resilience—so that they can live fulfilling, productive lives (rather than returning to their prior, suboptimal state of functioning). 

This is vastly different from the way mental health disorders were viewed decades ago. Previously, and really up until the mid-1970s, many people believed that those with mental illness could not be treated. They were monitored rather than supported. Today, with the recovery model in place, those with mental health conditions are encouraged to become the best versions of themselves. In treatment, they are given the tools needed to understand their triggers, cope with their symptoms, control their problems, and find fulfillment in everyday life.  

The recovery model for mental health is patient-directed, meaning self-determination, self-management, and well-being are all emphasized. When a patient is given the proper support, they can live active and productive lives in their community. Support systems include good relationships with friends and family, as well as supportive health care, community connectedness, and a stable home life. With these in place, a person will have the resources they need to manage their disorder and lead a meaningful life. 

According to the National Library of Medicine research cited above, the recovery model emphasizes this clear point: “While people may not have full control over their symptoms, they can have control over their lives.” In other words, recovery is not just about treating the symptoms of a mental health disorder. It is not about identifying the symptoms and making them go away. Recovery is about seeing beyond the mental health disorder and underlining a person’s true capabilities. The recovery model is dedicated to promoting patients’ skill sets, interests, and goals. It does not limit them, it does not stigmatize them – the recovery model encourages them to succeed despite their unique barriers. As stated by researchers

“Health professionals often have reduced expectations, while families and friends can be overly protective or pessimistic about what someone with a mental health problem will be able to do and achieve. [The recovery model] is about looking beyond those limits to help people achieve their own goals, aspirations and dreams. Recovery can be a voyage of self-discovery and personal growth; experiences of mental illness can provide opportunities for change, reflection and discovery of new values, skills and interests.” 

What are the Four Characteristics of the Mental Health Recovery Model? 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) discusses this model of recovery as it pertains to mental health disorders. These experts agree that recovery should be personalized based on the patient’s individual needs. For example, to reach a state of recovery from a mental illness, a person’s treatment must be holistic. It must address the whole person – including any clinical treatment, faith-based approaches, family support, self-care, peer support, and more, as needed. Further, SAMHSA states what is echoed in the recovery model: 

“Recovery is characterized by continual growth and improvement in one’s health and wellness and managing setbacks. Because setbacks are a natural part of life, resilience becomes a key component of recovery.” 

SAMHSA also outlines four key characteristics that are essential to the recovery model. These include: 

  • Health – This involves overcoming one’s symptoms and making choices that promote their physical and emotional well-being. 
  • Home – This requires having a stable place to live and heal. 
  • Purpose – This means that a person in recovery should conduct meaningful activities, whether that is going to school, volunteering, working, taking care of a family, or other endeavors. 
  • Community – Social relationships are needed to provide support, friendship, and hope. 

How is the Recovery Model Different from the Medical Model in Mental Health? 

As described above, the recovery model for mental health goes beyond treating a person’s symptoms, and instead focuses on treating the whole person to help them build a meaningful life. 

This is different from the traditional medical model. The medical model views mental health disorders as having physiological causes, and typically uses medication for treatment of the illness. 

While these two models are very different, it’s important to note that they do not need to oppose one another. In fact, the recovery model and medical model can be complementary and used together. According to VeryWellMind, the medical model can be used to ensure any biological causes or symptoms are fully addressed, while the recovery model can be applied to empower patients to engage with their treatment, build their skill sets, and create a purposeful, productive life. 

Recovery at Turnbridge 

At Turnbridge, we believe that recovery should always be centered around each individual person. Their treatment plan should be customized according to their unique experiences, and should always take into consideration their needs from a physical, emotional, cultural, and social standpoint. Upon entering the doors at Turnbridge, clients receive a personal evaluation and personalized treatment plan according to their individual needs and goals. To this end, we enact what we call the EMPWR care model – we take time to understand each’s clients Emotional Health, Mental Health, Physical Health, Work Ethic, and Relational Health, in order to optimize their care and achieve better outcomes. 

At Turnbridge, clients struggling with a mental health condition work in phases towards their recovery. In this sense, their treatment is also self-directed. Each client works at their own pace through the phased program—acclimating to treatment, engaging in therapy, developing skills and relationships, exhibiting self-care, and eventually, leading independent lives in recovery. This allows for a personalized, patient-directed, and positive recovery experience – key components of the recovery model for mental health. 

Turnbridge is a recognized treatment program and recovery center for young people who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders. We have helped thousands of adolescents and young adults overcome mental health, behavioral, and substance use disorders by transforming their afflictions into opportunities for personal growth. At Turnbridge, we help clients build lives that are worth protecting. Learn more by calling 877-581-1793.