Title of ArticleRecovery and person-centredness in mental health services: roots of the concepts and implications for practice
Type of ArticleSpecial Issue Paper
Author/sJan Kåre Hummelvoll, Bengt Karlsson and Marit Borg
ReferenceVolume 5, Special Issue on Person-centredness, Article 7
Date of PublicationSeptember 2015
KeywordsPerson-centeredness, recovery, service user, practice development

Background: During the past three decades, the concepts of recovery and person-centredness have become familiar in mental health policy, practice and research, as well as in the voicing of service users’ experiences of moving from mental distress and processes towards wellbeing and citizenship. Recovery, like person-centredness, is about a person retaining and keeping control over their life situation and being assisted in making informed decisions, and about supporting real partnerships between persons, families and services.

Aim: The aim of the article is to discuss the roots and developments of recovery and person-centredness, highlight some key strategies of these practice developments and show how the concepts and practices can nurture each other.
What this article adds to the topic: The roots of recovery are based in service user and activist organisations, and in disability movements, while the roots of person-centeredness can be traced back to Carl Rogers’ work from the early 1940s, and also to humanistic-existentialist oriented models of care in the 1960 and 1970s. The two concepts are interdependent in that they presuppose each other. The key aspects of recovery can be summed up as:

  • Recovery as a spontaneous, natural event
  • Recovery as consequence of active treatment
  • Recovery despite symptoms and functional impairments

Recovery is a personal, social and a spiritual process. Person-centredness is regarded as an essential component in good-quality care, and is understood as conveying a holistic approach characterised by respect for individuals and their unique experiences and needs.

Implications for practice: To make recovery and person-centredness influential in practice, four strategies are outlined:

  • Realising the radical change involved in placing the person at the centre
  • Acknowledging mental health problems as both personal and social
  • Recognising and using knowledge embedded in the lived experience of service users, family members and practitioners
  • Paying genuine attention to the spiritual process of recovery
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