Road To Healing: What Does Mental Health Recovery Look Like?

May 15, 2019

Mental health recovery isn’t just about getting better, it’s about achieving a satisfying and full life. Lots of people who are in recovery agree that the journey isn’t a steady or straight road, but instead, one with setbacks and discoveries. Although it may seem difficult at first, after time has passed, it’s possible to see the distance traveled and the progress made, despite any stops and starts. Every time a milestone is reached, it’s possible to see that a small victory has taken place, and new strength can be drawn from it. However, it’s important to remember that achieving a full recovery can take a long time, so not to be discouraged, positive change is happening on the way.

What Does Mental Health Recovery Mean?

When it comes to mental health issues, recovery doesn’t necessarily mean a full return to “normality”. While a physical complaint may be completely resolved in time, mental health problems may not always go away entirely.

Therefore, recovery means different things between different individuals. Usually, however, recovery from mental health issues means realizing goals and developing new skills and relationships that allow a more positive lifestyle, even if ongoing problems exist.

Mental Health Recovery – An Overview

Although there isn’t a single definition of mental health recovery, there is one definition, which is sometimes called a “recovery model” which places building up resilience as the heart of recovery so that the sufferer’s self-esteem and personal identity can be supported. This strength-based approach doesn’t solely focus on the symptoms. Rather, it emphasizes developing greater resilience and methods by which life’s challenges can be better faced and controlled. The whole point of the recovery model is to help those struggling with mental health challenges to move forward, finding meaningful activities and relationships and setting new goals.

It’s important to recognize that recovery isn’t a single moment – it’s a process. There is an acronym which is attached to this process – CHIME:

C = Connectedness

H = Hope

I = Identity

M = Meaning

E = Empowerment

By keeping these five key ideas in mind, sufferers are best placed to facilitate their recovery.

Evidence exists to show that strategies for self-management which are based on this recovery model are more valuable than other models which are solely based on physical health. Some of the factors which have been shown to be important in recovery include:

  • Developing positive relationships
  • Finding work which is satisfying
  • Growing as a person
  • Finding the right supportive living environment

The recovery model is so respected by mental health professionals that it is now being incorporated in the design and delivery of several mental healthcare services. It involves person-centered care as well as an understanding that recovery isn’t just about being cured but about living a purposeful, satisfying and meaningful life, whatever the mental health obstacles faced.

Social inclusion plays a key role in the process of recovery, and finding ways for sufferers to take a role within their communities and become involved with society via leisure, cultural, educational and work-related activities is a vital way to help those living with mental health conditions to regain a place within their community and participate in a greater range of valuable opportunities and activities.

To achieve these goals, the journey of recovery benefits from having a well-organized support system including friends, family, health services, professionals and the wider community as well as the individual themselves.

Embarking On The Journey Of Recovery

Wall | Mental Health Recovery | Hillcrest ATC

The very first step that anyone suffering from mental health issues must take is to take the decision that their life needs to improve. There are many ways in which mental illness impacts on everyday life. Normal day-to-day activities suffer, friendships are often lost and personal relationships deeply affected. For those in work, employment may be lost, while those in school may be forced to quit their studies. Both of these scenarios can have a severe impact on future financial security.

When the challenges of mental illness are coupled with these losses, it can be very overwhelming. Yet eventually, in order to embark on a journey of recovery, it’s important to realize that it’s no longer enough to just survive from day to day and to gain back a good quality of life, however long that may take. It is at this point that recovery can begin.

The Early Recovery Process

During the earliest stages of recovery, getting a diagnosis from a medical professional is the right step to relieving some of the most challenging symptoms. It’s vital to recognize that, at this point, finding sufficient support from other people is important. Friends, family, self-help groups, community organizations or faith communities could all be beneficial in offering this kind of support and understanding.

The Second Stage Of Recovery

With the passage of time, many sufferers of mental health disorders find that their condition becomes more manageable. After receiving appropriate medication and/or counseling and therapy, while also getting sufficient support from loved ones and friends, many people find their condition becomes more manageable. Another element in reaching this stage is the growth of understanding and knowledge of the individual about their own condition and the best ways to cope with it in the long term. While at one time it was believed that this stable plateau would be the best outcome possible during recovery from mental illness, in fact in some cases more can be achieved. In fact, it’s possible with the right approach and the right support to return to having an active lifestyle that is based on abilities, preferences, and desires.

So, how can this be achieved? Here, we take a look at the individual elements which make up the stages of recovery so you can see how they impact your life and your journey towards mental wellness.

Finding Positivity And Hope

For some sufferers, receiving a diagnosis of a mental health problem is devastating. Yet with the right support and help, it’s possible to recover and actually achieve your ambitions. That isn’t to say there won’t be any challenges. In fact, there may be many. Yet it is possible to manage mental illness.

There are lots of things which you can do to help yourself cope with your diagnosis and support your recovery. The good news is that today, mental illness is understood better than it was just a few years ago. There is now a greater knowledge of the various mental illnesses and the different approaches each requires when it comes to treatment. There are new therapies and medications available to improve the chances of making a full recovery and there is a lot more positivity about the possibility of living a full life.

It is vital to recognize you’re not alone. Many people suffer from a mental health condition, and around a fifth of U.S. citizens are sufferers. Many celebrities struggling with mental health conditions now speak out about their problems and give others hope about the possibility of recovery. Connecting with others who are also sufferers is beneficial for gaining insight, experiencing acceptance and finding valuable support.

It’s also possible to find hope inside yourself. If you’re determined to get better and live a full life, this is one of the best sources of hope there is. You can also derive hope from the reassurance of others who support you and who have had a similar experience. By making the effort to understand your condition, take responsibility for your own well-being and seeking out help, the better chance there is of a full recovery.

Gaining Acceptance

Learning to accept your condition can help you to change your attitude, expectations, lifestyle, and self-awareness. You can accept your new identity and gain acceptance from other people, particularly your friends and family who can help to promote a greater sense of belonging.

Regaining Control

If you can regain more control over your life, you can help to facilitate your own recovery. Learning how to adopt self-management techniques is highly beneficial. This involves learning how to avoid any unhealthy behaviors which are holding you back from recovery.

To self-manage yourself, it’s important to develop a greater self-awareness, particularly with respect to your own mental health. You need to identify your potential triggers as well as the factors which can help your recovery.

Medication can make some sufferers feel as if they are out of control. Knowing they have to rely on medicines to stay well can be unempowering and the side effects experienced may also compound that feeling of powerlessness. Yet with understanding and support from professionals and taking control over your own medication may help to improve that feeling of control.

Talking treatments are also very beneficial in enabling sufferers to take greater control over their illness and lives, helping them to see things from a new perspective and to gain new skills.


When someone is mentally unwell, they often become dependent on family, friends and healthcare services. Once in recovery, many people feel as if they are being forced into independence, and this often results in feelings of isolation.

To recover effectively, it’s important to find a better balance between independence and dependency – in short, interdependence. This will depend on each specific relationship or situation. By taking more control over treatments, it’s possible to develop interdependent relationships with mental healthcare professionals, while finding ways in which to gain the right level of support from loved ones without them doing too much or too little to help you can be more of a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

How Can I Aid My Mental Health Recovery?

Here are some tools which are helpful during the process of mental health recovery:

  • Acceptance – denying mental health difficulties is damaging. Acceptance is the first step on the way to recovery.
  • Identity – don’t feel labeled by your diagnosis. You can reclaim your identify and redefine your problems yourself in terms that are meaningful to you.
  • Self-Management – develop techniques and strategies that you personally find helpful in your recovery. If one technique doesn’t work for you, try something else.
  • Peer Support – getting support from other people with similar diagnoses or experiences can be highly beneficial. You can do this by attending a self-help or support group in your local area or by joining online communities.
  • Talking Treatment – talking therapies allow you to discuss your mental health with a professional and to learn new techniques to manage your problems. A counselor or psychotherapist can give your valuable insights and teach you CBT or other skills to manage your symptoms.
  • Spirituality – for some people, religion can help in gaining greater peace of mind and self-awareness. However, spirituality means different things to different people. For you, it may be through meditation, mindfulness or creativity.

Long-Term Management In Mental Health Recovery

When someone believes themselves to have recovered from their mental health problem, it’s still important to continue to use appropriate self-management techniques. By remaining aware of feelings, triggers, and emotions, it’s possible to ward off any future problems and to anticipate a possible relapse. It’s important never to take your mental health for granted.

It’s important to try to stay as well as possible once you are in recovery. Prevention is better than cure, and preventing a crisis from developing is always a better approach than tackling a crisis which has already developed. Using coping strategies which work for you, including keeping a mood diary, living a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, eating well, monitoring sleep patterns and controlling medication properly is the best solution to ensure a long-term recovery.

Some self-management techniques for long-term mental health recovery include:

  • Avoiding excessive stimulation
  • Taking time out to become more aware of situations
  • Journaling emotions and feelings
  • Talking to understanding people
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating healthy and regularly
  • Controlling medications effectively
  • Using meditation and mindfulness
  • Having a regular routine
  • Avoiding excessive stress and pressure
  • Staying active to avoid dwelling on problems
  • Finding sufficient time to relax and de-stress

Although the process of mental health recovery isn’t an easy road to travel, it’s essential to embark on it if you’re going to live a full, happy and satisfying life. Once you’ve taken the decision to try to get better, there should be no looking back.