The Recovery Approach is a way to provide mental health services that deeply values service user and family member, carer, and supporter perspectives. It aims to achieve the outcomes they prioritise. It seeks to embed coproduction in the mental health system, where everyone is working together to improve services.

The Recovery Approach involves mental health professionals:

  • Focusing on empowerment, collaborative decision making, self-determination, choice, and – in the beautiful words of service user researcher Patricia Deegan – the ‘dignity of risk’ and ‘right to fail’.
  • Sharing discipline specific knowledge and expertise in coproduction.
  • Engaging in critical self-reflection so they can open up spaces for a genuine dialogue with the people who come to services seeking help.
  • Emphasising strengths and resilience in psychiatric assessments, rather than perceived ‘deficits’, ‘pathology’, or ‘symptoms’.
  • Challenging psychiatric stigma and redressing the unique power inequities that exist between the people who use, and those who provide, mental health services.
  • Valuing the contribution of lived experience through reciprocity.
  • Bringing their own humanity to the table when helping others by self-disclosing their own life challenges and how they overcame them.

Where did the Recovery Approach come from?

Firstly, research carried out over the last 60 years has challenged long held pessimistic beliefs about the likelihood of recovery in mental health. Modern evidence suggests that recovery is not just possible but likely, even in what is labelled ‘serious mental illness’ (O’Keeffe et al., 2018).

Secondly, the Recovery Approach arose from human rights-based disability movement. After long-stay psychiatric hospitals closed, ex-‘patients’ gathered together to share their experiences and to advocate for the services, resources, and social opportunities to live the lives they wanted in the community. In more recent years, service users have campaigned against:

  1. the power imbalance they experienced in the psychiatric system,
  2. how the meaning they make in their experience of mental health difficulties was neglected, and
  3. how the limited focus on diagnosis, psychiatric ‘symptoms’, and functioning ignores their strengths and resilience.


Thirdly, the Recovery Approach has stemmed from progress in human rights internationally. For example, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims to ensure that people with experience of mental health difficulties are afforded the same basic human rights as everyone else, including equality, non-discrimination, legal capacity, informed consent, and community inclusion.

Our Programme

Take a look at some example courses and click on the link below to view all.