Recovering or Cured?

Many years ago, I attended a multi-day training at the Village, a mental health recovery community in Long Beach, California.  Although I was utilizing recovery principles by that time as a therapist, the immersion training helped me understand how to apply the term “recovery” to persons with mental illness.

Previously, the term “recovery” had been used with persons with alcoholism and drug abuse.  Through treatment, peer support and other tools, an alcoholic can become a recovering alcoholic (not a recovered alcoholic).  This is also true in the realm of mental health treatment.  A person with major depression or a person with bipolar illness can become a person in recovery.  The person may not be completely “cured” of depression but can become a person in recovery.

Several mental health leaders have promoted a recovery vision and describe components of the recovery process with some variance.  At the core is the concept or stage of HOPE.  Most, if not all, mental health recovery visionaries speak of hope.

Mark Ragin, M.D., Medical Director and psychiatrist at the Village, wrote in A Road to Recovery, that hope needs to “take form as an actual, reasonable vision of what things could look like if they were to improve.”  As a therapist at Lutheran Family Service (LFS), I strive to assist clients in experiencing hope that is more a “reasonable vision” than merely an ideal.  We recognize that many people come to see us feeling hopeless and we pray that we can assist them in becoming hopeful.

3 other key pieces

Dr. Ragin defines three other stages of recovery:  empowerment, self-responsibility and a meaningful role in life.  He states: “To move forward, people need to have a sense of their own capability and their own power.  They need to take responsibility for their own lives.  A person with mental illness must achieve a meaningful role…that is separate from their illness.”

My hope as a therapist is that I can be helpful to persons so that they can move into recovery.  Stenciled on a Lutheran Family Service office wall in Des Moines is the following:  With God, All things are possible.

Linda Kramer, LISW, Lutheran Family Service

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