Confusion of recovery: One solution


  • Elizabeth Collier, BSc MSc, RMN PGCE.

Elizabeth Collier, University of Salford, School of Nursing, Frederick Rd Campus, Salford M6 6PU, UK. Email:


This paper questions the current mental health discourse that offers new definitions of the concept of ‘recovery’ and offers a different perspective that aims to clarify its meaning. Confusion is caused when medical language continues to be used in discussions that aim to challenge traditional medical understanding of the term ‘recovery’ (meaning cure). Medical and non-medical concepts of recovery are referred to interchangeably in many narratives and the common references to and acceptance of the Harding et al. papers and similar that report on how people can ‘get better’ from schizophrenia perpetuates this confusion. In this paper, it is suggested that ‘recovery’ should not be viewed as having new meaning, but that two different concepts have been confused, with the same word having been used to describe two completely different things altogether. This means that what is referred to in this paper as ‘medical’ recovery (traditional definitions of recovery that aims for cure), becomes subordinate to ‘life’ recovery (personal development and change) in which psychiatric classification might have no part in a person's understanding of their experience and where improving ‘symptoms’ could be irrelevant in the personal process of growth and discovery.