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Recovery from a mental or physical illness, or a traumatic life or collective experience can refer to a process or a state (the result of the recovery process). It can be conceptualised on several levels (individuals, groups, regions) and as an individual or group process. On an individual level, clinical practice and research distinguish objective and subjective recovery. Objective recovery refers to a medically defined process or state of symptom remission. Subjective or personal recovery is an individual perception meaning that the concerned person manages to lead a satisfying and purposeful life, develops self-esteem and a positive identity in the face of an illness (Anthony, 1993; Davidson & Roe, 2007; Deegan, 1988; Onken, Craig, Ridgway, Ralph, & Cook, 2007). While objective recovery is measured with the corresponding symptom scales, there are specific quantitative and qualitative instruments to assess subjective recovery. One frequently used instrument in the context of illness is the Recovery Assessment Scale (RAS; Corrigan, Salzer, Ralph, Sangster, & Keck, 2004) including five dimensions: personal confidence and hope, willingness to ask for help, goal and success orientation, reliance on others and no domination by symptoms. A more process-oriented instrument assessing different stages of subjective recovery in the context of mental illness is the Stages Of Recovery Instrument (Andresen, Caputi, Oades, 2006). Recovery can be achieved through an individual or a group process. On a collective level, social identity or social capital based programs aim at achieving recovery through processes fostering group resources. These can operate either at a small-group, community regional levels or on larger groups or categories such as equity deserving groups.

Author: Klaas, Hannah S.
Co-author: Ehsan, Anna


Andresen, R., Caputi, P., & Oades, L. (2006). Stages of Recovery Instrument: Development of a Measure of Recovery from Serious Mental Illness. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40(11-12), 972–980.
Anthony, W. A. (1993). Recovery from mental illness: The guiding vision of the mental health service system in the 1990s. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 16(4), 11–23.
Corrigan, P. W., Salzer, M., Ralph, R. O., Sangster, Y., & Keck, L. (2004). Examining the Factor Structure of the Recovery Assessment Scale. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 30(4), 1035–1041.
Deegan, P. E. (1988). Recovery: The lived experience of rehabilitation. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 11(4), 11–19.
Onken, S. J., Craig, C. M., Ridgway, P., Ralph, R. O., & Cook, J. A. (2007). An analysis of the definitions and elements of recovery: a review of the literature. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 31(1), 9–22.

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