Skip to main content Accessibility help

The rediscovery of recovery: open to all

  • Glenn Roberts and Paul Wolfson


‘Recovery’ is usually taken as broadly equivalent to ‘getting back to normal’ or ‘cure’, and by these standards few people with severe mental illness recover. At the heart of the growing interest in recovery is a radical redefinition of what recovery means to those with severe mental health problems. Redefinition of recovery as a process of personal discovery, of how to live (and to live well) with enduring symptoms and vulnerabilities opens the possibility of recovery to all. The ‘recovery movement’ argues that this reconceptualisation is personally empowering, raising realistic hope for a better life alongside whatever remains of illness and vulnerability. This paper explores the background and defining features of the international recovery movement, its influence and impact on contemporary psychiatric practice, and steps towards developing recovery-based practice and services.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The rediscovery of recovery: open to all
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The rediscovery of recovery: open to all
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The rediscovery of recovery: open to all
      Available formats



Hide All
Allott, P., Loganathan, L. & Fulford, K. W. M. (2003) Discovering hope for recovery from a British perspective. In International Innovations in Community Mental Health (Special Issue) (eds Lurie, S., McCubbin, M. & Dallaire, B.) Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 21, in press.
Anthony, W. A. (1993) Recovery from mental illness: the guiding vision of the mental health service system in the 1990s. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 16, 1123.
Anthony, W. A. (2000) A recovery-oriented service system: setting some system level standards. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 24, 159168.
Baker, S. & Strong, S. (2001) Roads to Recovery: How People with Mental Health Problems Recover and Find Ways of Coping. London: Mind.
Butterworth, R. & Dean, J. (2000) Putting the missing rungs into the vocational ladder. Life in the Day, 4, 59.
Chamberlin, J. (1978) On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Clay, S. (1994) The wounded prophet. In Recovery: The New Force in Mental Health. Columbus, OH: Ohio Department of Mental Health.
Coleman, R. (1999) Recovery: An Alien Concept. Gloucester: Hansell Publishing.
Copeland, M. E. (2002) Overview of WRAP: Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Mental Health Recovery Newsletter, 3, 19.
Crane, H. (2003) Depression. Doctors as patients. BMJ, 326, 13241325.
Davidson, L. & Strauss, J. (1992) Sense of self in recovery from severe mental illness. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 65, 131145.
Deegan, P. E. (1988) Recovery: the lived experience of rehabilitation. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 11, 1119.
Deegan, P. (1996) Recovery as a journey of the heart. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 19, 9197.
Department of Health (2001a) The Expert Patient: A New Approach to Chronic Disease Management for the 21st Century. London: Department of Health.
Department of Health (2001b) The Journey to Recovery – The Government's Vision for Mental Health Care. London: Department of Health.
Department of Health (2001c) Shifting the Balance of Power within the NHS: Securing Delivery. London: Department of Health.
Department of Health (2003) Copying Letters to Patients. Good Practice Guidelines. London: Department of Health.
Faulkner, A. & Layzell, S. (2000) Strategies for Living: A Summary Report of User-Led Research into People's Strategies for Living with Mental Distress. London: Mental Health Foundation.
Fenton, L. & Te Koutua, T. W. (2000) Four Maori Korero about Their Experiences of Mental Illness (Recovery Series One). Wellington: The Mental Health Commission.
Fisher, D. B. (2001) We've been misled by the drug industry. Washington Post, 19 August, p. B3.
Harding, C. M., Brooks, G. W., Asolaga, T. et al (1987) The Vermont longitudinal study of persons with severe mental illness. 1: Methodological study sample and overall status 32 years later. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 718726.
Harrison, G. & Mason, P. (1993) Schizophrenia – falling incidence and better outcome? British Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 535541.
Harrison, G., Hopper, K., Craig, T. et al (2001) Recovery from psychotic illness: a 15- and 25-year international follow-up study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 178, 506517.
Hobbs, G. (1998) From My Madness. Nottingham: Poetry Monthly Press.
Jackson, C. (2003) Service users say they are sick of being used by the NHS. Mental Health Today, February, 89.
Jamison, K. R. (1995) An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Kleinman, A. (1988) The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing and the Human Condition. New York: Basic Books.
Lapsley, H., Waimarie, L. N. & Black, R. (2002) Kia Mauri Tau! Narratives of Recovery from Disabling Mental Health Problems. Wellington: Mental Health Commission.
Leete, E. (1989) How I perceive and manage my illness. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 8, 605609.
Leibrich, J. (1999) A Gift of Stories: Discovering How to Deal with Mental Illness. Dunedin: University of Otago Press.
Leibrich, J. (2001) Making Space: Spirituality and Mental Health. The Mary Hemingway Rees Memorial Lecture, World Assembly for Mental Health, Vancouver, 2001. Article posted Wednesday, November 06, 2002, no. 333978 at
Liberman, R. P. & Kopelowicz, A. (2002) Recovery from schizophrenia: a challenge for the 21st century. International Review of Psychiatry, 14, 245255.
Lovejoy, M. (1984) Recovery from schizophrenia: a personal Odyssey. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 35, 809812.
May, R. (2004) Understanding psychotic experience and working towards recovery. In Psychological Interventions in Early Psychosis (eds McGorry, P. & Gleeson, J.) Chichester: Wiley (in press).
McGorry, P. D. (1992) The concept of recovery and secondary prevention in psychotic disorders. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 26, 317.
Mental Health Foundation (2002) Something Inside so Strong: Strategies for Surviving Mental Distress. London: Mental Health Foundation.
National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2002) Schizophrenia: Core Interventions in the Treatment and Management of Schizophrenia in Primary and Secondary Care. Clinical Guideline 1. London: NICE.
North, C. (1988) Welcome, Silence: My Triumph over Schizophrenia. London: Simon & Schuster.
O'Hagan, M. (2001) Recovery Competencies for New Zealand Mental Health Workers. Wellington: Mental Health Commission.
Ohio Department of Mental Health (2003) Ohio Mental Health Recovery and Consumer Outcomes Initiative.
Rakfeldt, J. & Strauss, J. (1989) The low turning point. A control mechanism in the course of mental disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177, 3237.
Ralph, R. O., Kidder, K. & Phillips, D. (2000) Can We Measure Recovery? A Compendium of Recovery and Recovery-Related Instruments (PN-43). Cambridge, MA: The Evaluation Centre@HSRI.
Ralph, R. O., Lambert, D. & Kidder, K. A. (2002) The Recovery Perspective and Evidence-Based Practice for People with Serious Mental Illness: A Guideline Developed for The Behavioural Health Recovery Management Project.
Ramsay, R., Page, A., Goodman, T. et al (2002) Changing Minds: Our Lives and Mental Illness. London: Gaskell.
Repper, J. & Perkins, R. (2003) Social Inclusion and Recovery. London: Baillière Tindall.
Ridgeway, P. A. (2000) Re-storying psychiatric disability: learning from first person narrative accounts of recovery. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 24, 335343.
Roberts, G. A. (2000) Narrative and severe mental illness: what place do stories have in an evidence-based world? Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 6, 432441.
Royal College of Psychiatrists (2004) Rehabilitation and Recovery Now (Council Report CR121). London: Royal College of Psychiatrists. In press.
Sheehan, A. (2002) Inspirations, A Photographic Record of Recovery. London: NIMHE.
Tait, L., Birchwood, M. & Trower, P. (2003) Predicting engagement with services for psychosis: insight, symptoms and recovery style. British Journal of Psychiatry, 182, 123128.
Tuke, S. (1813) Description of The Retreat. Reprinted (1996) with an introduction by K. Jones. London: Process Press.
Unzicker, R. (1989) On my own: a personal journey through madness and re-emergence. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 13, 7077.
van Os, J. & McKenna, P. (2003) Does Schizophrenia Exist? (Maudsley Discussion Paper no. 12). London: Institute of Psychiatry Media Support Unit.
Warner, R. (1994) Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political Economy (2nd edn). New York: Routledge.
Whitwell, D. (1999) The myth of recovery from mental illness. Psychiatric Bulletin, 23, 621622. Full reference list available from the authors on request.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

The rediscovery of recovery: open to all

  • Glenn Roberts and Paul Wolfson
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *