Considering recovery as a process: or, life is not an outcome

Larry Davidson

in Recovery of People with Mental Illness

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199691319
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754791 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Considering recovery as a process: or, life is not an outcome

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This chapter argues that in order to appreciate the nature of recovery as a process, we first have to disconnect it from any preconceived notions of desirable outcomes to which it may ordinarily be linked. Accepting that, for human beings, the only real “outcome” that is enduring is our eventual death, the author argues that a process understanding of recovery makes better sense of the longitudinal data related to the non-linearity of course and heterogeneity in clinical definitions of outcome of mental illness. If, as the consumer/survivor movement argues, each person has to be the final arbiter of what is and what is not “normal” for him- or herself, further doubts are raised about the utility of the notion of recovery as an outcome. The author connects this discussion to the civil rights dimension of recovery as promoted by the recovery movement, and shows how this understanding of recovery is consistent with the view that people may experience an increase in symptoms, or deterioration in clinical status, in response to life events without thereby no longer being considered “in recovery”. Finally, the author responds to the criticism that this definition of recovery can apply to everyone all the time, and is therefore meaningless, by illustrating how it evolves in the lives of people with serious mental illnesses.

Chapter.  6415 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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