In mental health, recovery may not always refer to the process of complete recovery from a mental health problem in the way that we might recover from a physical health problem.

Recovery can mean different things to different people, however, for many, recovery is about the realisation of goals, and the development of relationships and skills that support a positive life, with or without ongoing mental health problems.

Overview of Recovery

While there is no universally accepted definition of recovery, one definition, often referred to as the “recovery model” argues for the importance of building the resilience of people with mental health problems and supporting their identity and self-esteem. It is a strength-based approach that does not focus solely on symptoms and which emphasises resilience and control over life’s challenges1,2. This model aims to help people with mental health problems move forward, set new goals, and take part in relationships and activities that are meaningful.

Recovery is also often referred to as a process, and some of the important features of this recovery process can be described by the acronym “CHIME”, which stands for: Connectedness, Hope and Optimism, Identity, Meaning and Purpose, and Empowerment3.

Recovery & Mental Health

There is evidence to suggest that self-management strategies based on the recovery model may have more value than models based on physical health alone1. Some research suggests that important factors on the road to recovery include4-5:

  • Good relationships
  • Satisfying work
  • Personal growth
  • The right living environment

A recovery approach is becoming adopted into the delivery and design of many mental health services. Implementation of recovery‐oriented practice should involve person‐centred care and recognition that recovery in not necessarily about cure. The focus is on supporting individuals to live meaningful, satisfying, and purposeful lives3.

As there is a strong link between the recovery process and social inclusion (i.e. being involved with society through work, education, culture, and leisure activities)4-5, a key role for services is to support people to regain their place in the communities in which they live and enable participation in activities and opportunities5.

Therefore, the recovery journey benefits from a well-organized system of support which involves the individual themselves, family, friends, professionals, health services, and wider communities.

Further Information and Resources

There are many different tools and approaches which can be used to support recovery, or which provide further information on recovery.

For some examples, please see the links below:

Page last updated: 12/12/18


  1. Davidson, L. (2005). Recovery, self-management and the expert patient: changing the culture of mental health from a UK perspective. J Mental Health, 14(1), 25-35.
  2. Bonney, S., & Stickley, T. (2008). Recovery and mental health: A review of the British literature. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs, 15(1), 140-153.
  3. Leamy, M., Bird, V.J., Le Boutillier, C., Williams, J., & Slade, M. (2011). A conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 199, 445-452.
  4. Tew, J., Ramon, S., Slade, M., Bird, V., Melton, J., & LeBoutillier, C. (2011). Social factors and recovery from mental health difficulties: A review of the evidence. British Journal of Social Work, 1-18.
  5. Slade, M., Amering, M., Farkas, M., Hamilton, B., O’Hagan, M., Panther, G., … et al. (2014). Uses and abuses of recovery: implementing recovery-oriented practices in mental health systems. World Psychiatry, 13(1), 12-20.