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RECOVERY DEFINED – A Unified Working Definition and Set of Principles:

In August 2010, leaders in the behavioral health field, including people in recovery from mental health and substance use addiction problems and SAMHSA met to explore the development of a common, unified definition of recovery. Prior to this conversation it was very apparent as to the need of a common definition. In fact, SAMHSA had separate definitions for recovery from mental and substance use conditions. These different definitions, along with other government agency definitions, complicate the discussion as we work to expand health insurance coverage for treatment and recovery support services. After many conversations and hard work with our partners in the field, a working unified definition and set of principles for recovery has been developed. The development of a standard, unified working definition of recovery will help assure access to recovery-oriented services for those who need it, as well as reimbursement to providers. Additionally, SAMHSA recognizes the importance of measuring the outcomes and quality of behavioral health services. As a result, SAMHSA is working to develop a set of measures to help assess a person’s recovery with an emphasis on developing indicators that assess quality of life.

Definition of ROSC, Elements and Guiding Principles of Recovery:

Working Definition of Recovery

Recovery is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential. 

Principles of Recovery…
  • Person-driven;
  • Occurs via many pathways;
  • Is holistic;
  • Is supported by peers;
  • Is supported through relationships;
  • Is culturally-based and influenced;
  • Is supported by addressing trauma;
  • Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility;
  • Is based on respect; and
  • Emerges from hope.

Furthermore SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Initiative identifies four major domains that support 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 that supports recovery;
  • 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.

There is no set time requirement for recovery as it is recognized that this is an individualized process whereby each person’s journey of recovery is unique and whereby each person in recovery chooses supports, ranging from clinical treatment to peer services that facilitate recovery. SAMHSA expects additional comments from the field as this definition evolves, and we continue to work together to help assure recovery services are being provided, reimbursed and measured in a consistent way. Check out SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Initiative for more information on recovery.