Mental Health Recovery is a BIG topic… one filled with lots of questions; What is recovery? How do we measure it? Is it even possible?…. And the list goes on.
Today I want to attempt to look at some of these points by talking about the expectations of recovery, and what that might look like in reality.
One thing that I know with great certainty is that recovery is not a linear process; people do not enter recovery (with, or without any treatment or formal support) at point A and work through – B,C,D – until they find themselves at Z and ‘fully recovered’. Yet this DOES seem to be the expectation of some clinicians and some clients. It is an expectation that sets people up to fail, leaving them feeling totally hopeless.
I frequently have the honour of speaking with and meeting individuals with great inner strength; be that at events, workshops, services or at the clinic. People speak to me; they share their stories and ask me to be the voice they can’t yet be. Unfortunately, I hear, with painful regularity, statements of submission to illness. These people have found themselves in front of ‘professionals’ who have told them that, because they aren’t recovered in the proffered 6, 12 or 18 sessions of counselling, they are too complex for treatment. Or that, since they’ve relapsed after a recent hospital admission, they are simply not trying hard enough.
These life-altering suggestions are false. Recovery is not linear. The reality is that sometimes recovery is 2 steps forward and 1 step back. At some times, recovery may be 1 step forward, 3 steps back. Sometimes recovery is stagnant but, at other times, recovery can be 10 steps forward.
I firmly believe that no one who wants recovery is beyond it. In fact, I’ve witnessed, through counselling, through friends and online, that, even in the bleakest looking case, RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE.
However, when we set someone up to fail by implying that recovery is a smooth journey of simple choices, we steal what little strength they may have. When we take away someone’s hope, we significantly reduce the chance that they will try another type of treatment or another source of help.
Recovery is not one-size-fits-all. Recovery may require different things, at different times. It is a journey: a journey that is as unique as the person. So what I can tell you about recovery is that it is possible! There is ALWAYS something else to try. As long as the person wants it, there is always hope.
If you’re a professional reading this and you don’t have hope – then you’re not the right practitioner for that client. If you’re someone trying to recover and your team aren’t supporting you in the way you need – you should know that there is always something (or somewhere) else you can try. Don’t give up.
Expect struggle. Expect slips and blips and bad days. But keep going. Forgive yourself, care for yourself, and try again. Expect a recovery that works for you (or your client).