psychologists can point patients to as they begin re-integrating
into their communities. And because few training standards and
best practices exist, psychologists simply may not know how to
use this orientation to facilitate their clients’ recovery.
“The big challenge is addressing psychologists’ perceptions
of recovery and how it impacts their work,” says APA 2011
President Melba J. T. Vasquez, PhD. “But another challenge
that APA really cares about is getting recovery into education
and training: It’s important for both our students in graduate
doctoral programs but also for our current providers to learn
these recovery concepts and principles and put them into
Working with a recovery mindset is very different from
what psychologists traditionally do, adds Vasquez. For example,
in therapy sessions with the mother of a son with serious
mental illness, Vasquez didn’t just focus on helping to ease her
distress. She also reached out to a social worker and others
in the community to help the woman find housing and a
job for her son. “Working collaboratively with others in the
community is important,” says Vasquez, “and we’re not usually
trained to work that way.”
To help psychologists get that training, APA’s Recovery
to Practice team is developing a curriculum for doctoral
psychology training programs that emphasizes recovery
outcomes and explains recovery-related principles and practices.
“This process should be greatly facilitated by the tremendous
work of CAPP’s Task Force on Serious Mental Illness and
Severe Emotional Disturbance, which spent years developing
and revising the Catalog of Clinical Training Opportunities: Best
Practices for Recovery and Improved Outcomes for People with
Serious Mental Illness,” says Nordal.
Still in draft form, the curriculum features more than a
dozen modules on such topics as the recovery movement’s
history, the scientific foundations of recovery, health disparities,
ethics and how to incorporate recovery principles into
such tasks as clinical assessment, treatment planning and
The APA team will spend the next year developing the
curriculum and plans to have it ready for pilot testing by
the end of next summer. The hope is to have three or four
graduate training directors incorporate the curriculum into
their programs and provide feedback. The Recovery to Practice
team will then modify the curriculum as needed and either do
another round of pilot testing or move ahead with working
with the psychology training councils on dissemination and
APA also plans to go beyond the SAMHSA-funded project
in its efforts to spread the word on recovery. In addition to the
curriculum for graduate students, APA will develop versions
for use in internship programs as well as continuing-education
programs for psychologists already in practice.
For Jansen, the focus on recovery is especially timely given
the roll-out of health-care reform.
“Health-care reform is all about promoting wellness: getting
people to be as healthy and productive members of society as
they can be,” she says, adding that this will ultimately reduce
costs. “If psychology as a profession doesn’t embrace the
notion of recovery and the need to train psychologists in the
rehabilitative interventions needed to assist people to recover,
psychology will likely be left behind.” n
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.
At a 2004 National Consensus Conference on
Mental Health Recovery and Mental Health
Systems Transformation convened by SAMHSA,
patients, health-care professionals, researchers
and others agreed on 10 core principles
undergirding a recovery orientation:
• Self-direction: Consumers determine their
own path to recovery.
• Individualized and person-centered:
There are multiple pathways to recovery
based on individuals’ unique strengths,
needs, preferences, experiences and cultural
• Empowerment: Consumers can choose
among options and participate in all decisions
that affect them.
• Holistic: Recovery focuses on people’s
entire lives, including mind, body, spirit and
• Nonlinear: Recovery isn’t a step-by-step
process but one based on continual growth,
occasional setbacks and learning from
• Strengths-based: Recovery builds on
• Peer support: Mutual support plays an
invaluable role in recovery.
• Respect: Acceptance and appreciation by
society, communities, systems of care and
consumers themselves are crucial to recovery.
• Responsibility: Consumers are responsible
for their own self-care and journeys of recovery.
• Hope: Recovery’s central, motivating
message is a better future — that people can and
do overcome obstacles.