Recovery: What's in a Word?

January 11, 2012 Randye Kaye

Well, it looks as if SAMHSA has redefined the term: Recovery.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2012) — A new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders is being announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows: A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

So, what do you think?

Ben has been "in recovery" since late in 2003, after his medication regime was stabilized and deemed effective. We cross our fingers each and every day that the psychiatric medications continue to work, and that he continues to take them despite his feeling that he doesn't need to.

And so it goes.

[caption id="attachment_565" align="alignleft" width="170" caption="made in Art Class, a step in Ben's recovery"]made in Art Class, a step in Ben's recovery[/caption]

Although I wrote - and promote - Ben Behind His Voices on my own (with the support of my publisher), I have been fortunate enough to occasionally team with a pharmaceutical company whose heart is absolutely in the right place re the messages we share:

1 - a therapeutic alliance/open communication between caregivers, patients (their word), and healthcare professionals is essential to better treatment outcomes

2 - having a variety of treatment options available helps the chances for better outcomes

3 - treatment begins with the right medications, but there is so much more to the plan. Things like structure, usefulness, community and love are also essential.

The opportunity to share our story and book, Ben Behind His Voices, with audiences from pharmaceutical reps to psychiatric nurses, from psychiatrists to the general public, remains a vital part of why I kept writing, and took the many steps to publication and promotion. In the past few months, I have been able to share these messages in the media (such as Fox News, ConnTV and on PBS) - and in person through author talks to NAMI, libraries, book clubs, bookstores and conferences for professionals, families, consumers - anyone who might need to know that compassion leads to understanding, which can replace stigma.

Here is one interview: (feel free to link to the others)

In my partnership appearances, we prefer the word "stabilization" to "recovery" which I use in my book. Along those same lines, is it "relapse" or is it "return of symptoms"?

I don't know. I do know that words have power, and do matter. (Think about the difference between "I have to go to the gym" vs. "I get to go to the gym!"). But, either way, the success is in the details, the attitudes, and the actions.

I said in an earlier post about the Four Cornerstones of Recovery that Structure, Community, and Purpose were as essential as medications.

SAMHSA's post says something similar:

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has also delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

* Health: overcoming or managing one's disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;

* Home: a stable and safe place to live;

* Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and

* Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

However you slice it or say it, what will matter most is understanding the needs for recovery from mental illness, and backing it up with actions that keep those pieces in place.

Financial cuts to services does no favors for anyone. It only results in heartache, possible failure, and eventually a much greater cost - financially as well as emotionally. We can't afford not to support recovery in all its elements. The cost is too great - and the rewards of success when "individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential." is, yes, priceless.

Whatever you call it, aiming for recovery is a priority we can't afford not to take.

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2012, January 11). Recovery: What's in a Word?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Randye Kaye

Stephen Lunny
February, 18 2013 at 5:05 pm

It seems confusing to me that we are taught one definition for recovery ie to be cured; however when talking about mental illness or substance abuse, the definition changes. Aren't we talking about improving wellbeing and why not call it this?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
February, 19 2013 at 3:30 am

Hi Stephen,
yes the discussion continues - why call it "recovery"? Certainly, there is no cure - yet - and we don't say "recovery" from ongoing medical situations like diabetes - yet we do use the term when speaking about addiction, also not cured. I sometimes call it "stabilization" - but, like many words, recovery seems to have many meanings.
When a better term comes along and is adopted, I'll be sure to embrace it. Your point is well taken. Thanks for writing!
thanks, Randye

June, 9 2012 at 10:18 pm

Hello, I am diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder and PTSD. I was first deanid with Chronic Depression, that was in 2006, then PTSD in 2007. By 2009 I was having mania, psychosis, depression and schizophrenic episodes and was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. The gradual downward spiral, I believe, was caused by society, doctors, counselors, and family and friends not understanding HOW to help me. I became alone except for my Twin sister who never gave up on me, and between the two us concord the most challenging time in my life. It's now 2011 and I am also writing a book on my illness and the STIGMA attached to it. Of which I still suffer at the hands of my Ex-Inlaws and Ex-husband who want me to be stay mentally ill so they can take away my children.Thank you for this article. I love Healthy Place.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
June, 10 2012 at 2:33 am

Thanks for sharing your story here. I'm so glad to hear that your sister has not given up, and is discovering how to help. So many many more more family members could be supportive if they just had the support and education they need to learn how. That's one thing that is so great about Healthy Place, NAMI, and the books that help spread understanding and reduce stigma by sharing info and our personal stories. That's why I wrote Ben Behind His Voices, and I wish you luck with your book too!

Cathy Hewitt
January, 12 2012 at 3:55 pm

All that pressure!
My recovery is having more of the life I want. Doable no matter my state.
Hope exists as long as God gives me breath.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
January, 13 2012 at 3:48 am

beautiful, Cathy! thanks

Randye Kaye
January, 12 2012 at 2:52 am

Thanks for writing, Rossa, as I think I did need to clarify that occasional partnership. I wrote, and promote, the book on my own, and with the support of my literary agent, publisher, and sometimes speakers' bureaus or PR experts. As a professional speaker and broadcaster, I find I am often asked to speak out in the media and in person as the Ben's mother, and author of this book. The appearance on PBS is an example of this. When I do an in-person public speaking appearance, I do generally receive a speaker fee. The pharmaceutical company is one of these clients, and our association is not about promotion of any particular product, it is about the important messages stated in the post. When I do a program, as is customary, I am compensated for my time and talents. I am happy to share our family story to put a human face on schizophrenia and spread the message of hope. A sample of their press release is available at - or you can watch the link at ConnTV.
thanks for writing,

Rossa Forbes
January, 11 2012 at 7:20 pm

Could you disclose further the extent of your teaming with a pharmaceutical company? Do you state this information up front when you promote your book and do you receive compensation, financial or otherwise, for doing so? This is the first time I have heard of this alliance between parents and pharmaceutical companies. Is this practice widely spread?

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