Here at the ITE/MH Campaign, we search for and review a lot of articles and information in pursuit of finding “the Evidence” of individuals, organizations, and communities that support recovery. Recently, I’ve found myself becoming sensitive to the use of “recovery” and “recovery-oriented,” terms that are very positive expressions, however, the sheer amount of times they are sometimes used without much seeming context, made me wonder if there is meaning behind them—or have they merely become buzzwords.
What’s a buzzword? Defined by Meriam Webster, it is “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.” The Free Dictionary defines it as “a stylish or trendy word or phrase, especially when occurring in a specialized field.” Yikes!
So, what do we, at the ITE/MH Campaign, mean by “recovery” and “recovery-oriented?” The ITE/MH Campaign points to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) working definition of recovery: A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. Those individuals with the lived experience of mental illness and addiction who worked to develop the definition, also made sure to include 10 Guiding Principles, one importantly noting that “the process of recovery is highly personal and occurs via many pathways.” And further, through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:
Health—Overcoming or managing disease(s) or symptoms and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellbeing
Home—Having a stable and safe place to live
Purpose—Engaging in meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society
Community—Enjoying relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
Following the guiding principles and focusing on the four major dimensions that support a life in recovery is what the Campaign believes “recovery-oriented” is all about. It would be good practice for everyone to check in on these dimensions regularly, and consider what’s happening to help the people in our lives and communities to achieve recovery. When we do this, it puts us on solid ground in recognizing and celebrating the actions that individuals and organizations take, the Evidence of supporting the realization of health, home, purpose, and community for people on their unique recovery journey.
And beware the buzz.
Shelley Bishop is an ITE/MH Campaign consultant and founder of A Collective Journey.