Opportunities in Recovery Research Across the Lifespan

Arbour, Simone1

1Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Recovery, Mental Health


The previous issue of the Journal of Recovery in Mental Health focused on recovery around the world. It highlighted the various global initiatives designed to inform recovery-oriented practice and system transformation. Our current themed issue is also associated with mental health service transformation and focuses on recovery through the lifespan. This theme is aligned with The Mental Health Commission of Canada's Guidelines of Recovery-Oriented Practice that outlines important core principles related to recovery at different points of an individual's life, experience and development.

Upon reading the articles contained in this issue, it is apparent that while recovery is important throughout all stages of life, there are many distinct considerations that impact recovery for different groups of service users. For example, adolescents are at an earlier developmental stage than adults and are in the process of developing their identity and gaining independence rather than re-establishing theses recovery facets. In their article, Pinhas et al. have outlined the fine balance between ensuring adolescent service users are heard as participating members of their treatment collaborative yet at the same time, ensuring that teens are safe and take away learning and development from challenges and setbacks. As Goldstein et al. outline in their article, transitional aged youth face similar changes regarding independence, such as leaving the parental home and potentially shifting their occupational role from student to young professional. As noted, this time of transition can also present challenges as young adults may experiment with riskier behavior as they develop more independence and self-discovery. However, a better understanding of this time of transition also presents opportunity to align mental health recovery with emerging adulthood theory to optimize mental health programs and services. Although these articles each look at their respective populations separately, future research is essential to improve service delivery when youth become an age where they are no longer eligible for child/adolescent services and are often not well supported in finding new mental healthcare providers.

Also contained in this issue, is an article related to the experiences of the aging population. Older adults again undergo a number of transitions, for example work to retirement, children may move away from home, physiological changes such as an increased risk of medical conditions, and potentially grief and widowhood. The recovery journey for individuals in this demographic may be one of discovery, for example of new connections, roles, identity, or purpose.Burns-Weinrib's lived experience article outlines how her connection with her second husband and meaningful roles such as being an educator and volunteer fueled her recovery journey, giving her a renewed sense of purpose in adulthood and in later life. Further considerations are needed as older adults approach end of life, for example with advanced dementia.

Across the lifespan, transitioning back to the community from the inpatient mental health system is a significant challenge. This can be further complicated in certain populations, for example, those in the forensic system who are subject to additional stigma. Rose's account of his recovery journey was a reminder that each individual has a story and a life, and sometimes reflecting on our journey can highlight how far we've come. By sharing the expertise of those with lived experience, we can further advance our understanding of the successes and challenges of the individual recovery process. For example, accounts of one's lived experience can highlight service and system features that may have been designed to help, but at times might miss the mark. This viewpoint is further explored by Lord's article that provides a genuine account of what it is like for service users of inpatient mental health treatment. His examination of the contradiction of his treatment experience with the principles of recovery outlines the fact that there is much to learn about how to implement recovery guidelines into practice at the point of care.

This issue of the journal has acknowledged a number of gaps in recovery research. These include a lack of focus on specific sub-populations, including adolescents, transitional aged youth, older adults, people in need of end of life care, and those involved in the forensic system. The recovery frameworks and practice guidelines developed for adults may not be completely applicable to all groups due to developmental, transitional, or contextual differences. Future avenues of research may include the development of population-specific recovery models to help inform practice guidelines and measurement tools.

With the lived experience accounts, this journal issue also brings to light that, despite the implementation of recovery-oriented practice guidelines, mental healthcare services are not fully meeting the recovery needs of all service users. Just as everyone's recovery journey is different, each person's account of their experience with the mental health system will tell a story. Clinicians and researchers must use caution when applying recovery frameworks to services and must realize that these frameworks are not meant to be a formula to prescribe recovery to service users, but a guideline to develop tools and services that can be selected by and tailored for individuals to meet their personal recovery needs.

Perhaps the most significant shift needs to be in training our clinicians to become comfortable with the fact that recovery doesn't happen on their time. Recovery is personal and unique to each service user. By appreciating that the service user is their own expert, perhaps clinicians will be more comfortable in supporting positive risk taking opportunities and realizing that in their roles, clinicians do not have to have all the answers. Once we are able to overcome the need to prescribe, whether it is treatments or recovery, and are able to provide true person-centred care, our systems will become much more effective in enabling our service users to achieve their personal goals for a satisfying and fulfilling life.

New Editorial Advisory Board Member

I would like to welcome Dr. Marianne Farkas to the Advisory Editorial Board.Dr. Farkas has published extensively on the topic of recovery and psychiatric rehabilitation and is Co-Principal Investigator of the Research and Training Center and Professor in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University. Dr. Farkas' work has been integral in establishing the Recovery Center, the first of its kind devoted to the co-production and delivery of recovery curriculum.


Call for Papers


In our next themed issue, we are calling for submissions related to Leading Practices in Recovery Colleges.Recovery Colleges have been established in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada as a forum where people with professional experiential expertise come together to co-produce and co-deliver recovery-related curriculum to fellow students. Since the establishment of the Recovery Center at Boston University in 1983, much has been learned about the transformative power of Recovery Colleges. By shifting the ‘patientlsquo; role, to one of student, individuals with mental illness can register into courses in order to share and learn from one another. Using the recovery principles of inclusion, leveraging strengths, autonomy and peer support, recovery colleges are designed to empower individuals to take control of their recovery journeys. For this next issue, we welcome submissions highlighting leading practices associated with recovery college research and implementation.


Copyright (c) 2017 Simone Arbour

Journal of Recovery in Mental Health ISSN 2371-2376