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The British research evidence for recovery, papers published between 2006 and 2009 (inclusive). Part One: a review of the peer-reviewed literature using a systematic approach


  • T. STICKLEY phd ma dip n dip couns pgche rmn,

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham
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  • N. WRIGHT phd ma bn rn

    1. Research Fellow, Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, Nottingham, UK
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T. Stickley School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy University of Nottingham Duncan MacMillan House Porchester Road Nottingham NG3 6AA UK E-mail:


Accessible summary

  • The majority of articles that have been published about recovery and mental health have been published within the 4 years preceding this literature review. However, there are very few articles that review the recovery literature; furthermore, articles that report research directly related to the recovery concept are scarce.
  • Originally, the focus of the recovery movement was upon the role of the individual in their own recovery journey; there has been a shift towards the responsibility of service providers to ensure a recovery focused service.
  • Tensions have emerged in the literature between the humanistic philosophy of recovery and the biomedical model that has historically informed psychiatry. Similarly, the notion of recovery may overemphasize the significance of personal agency against the responsibility of services to fulfil a duty of care.
  • Recovery has become strongly associated with social roles and meaningful activities including education, work and engagement with sport and arts activities.


This paper is the first in a series of two which reviews the contemporary British evidence-base relating to recovery in mental health over a 4-year period. This review uses a systematic approach analysing the British peer-reviewed literature relating to recovery and mental health. The second paper in the series reviews the non-peer-reviewed literature. Recovery is not a new concept; however, it has recently become increasingly prevalent in practitioner, policy and research discourses. In total 12 papers met the inclusion criteria. Five main themes emerged from the analysis: hope and optimism, meaning to life, activities promoting recovery, definitions and discourses and implications for mental health practice. By including only peer-reviewed literature this paper is in a strong position to analyse the theoretical development of the recovery concept and highlight future directions for recovery in mental health services.