The Manufacture of Recovery

Paradigms shaping mental health policy have changed over the years; recovery is the most recent dominant paradigm.

Most recently, recovery (or recovery orientation, recovery vision or recovery philosophy) has been the dominant paradigm. This review examines recovery, its history, and the values, beliefs, and practices that have shaped it.

Key Findings:

  • The philosophy of recovery values independence, freedom of choice, empowerment, and respect. A literal recovery from mental illness is seen as possible.
  • The treatment philosophy of recovery is in response to deinstitutionalization and the pychopharmaceutical revolution, yet reviewing history shows that many of the ideas of recovery and of deinstitutionalization and pychopharmacolocy are rooted in similar ideas.
  • The recovery movement draws on neoliberalism and its sociocultural values, including a deep commitment to individual initiative and empowerment, which has shaped public policy since 1980 and the presidency of Regan.

This review ends with a case study of California, examining its use of recovery principles to transform the state’s mental health system. Overall, the review suggests that recovery is not as revolutionary as once thought. While this article does not assess the effectiveness of 'recovery-oriented’ policies, it does attempt to illuminate the history of recovery to help policy-makers and clinicians make informed choices.