In the Public Interest

A new way of conceptualizing what it means to recover from mental illness is emerging, and APA is making sure that psychologists are at the forefront. Several landmark federal reports over the past decade have called for radical transformation of mental health care based on the concept of “recovery,” which is defined as the “process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

However, many practitioners, including psychologists, have not been trained to provide recovery-oriented services. To address this issue, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has contracted with APA to educate psychologists about recovery-based services across our profession. In this era of health-care reform, it is timely for psychologists to learn about, and contribute to, the evolving range of recovery-oriented practices.

Recovery was once seen as more of a niche interest area largely for psychologists conducting research on, or providing treatment for, individuals living with serious mental illnesses. However, with its emphasis on integrated health-care models, meaningful patient-centered outcomes and collaboration with community stakeholders and others, the recovery movement offers much to our discipline as we define — and redefine — ourselves in the health-care reform process.

As just one example, the new health-care law provides strong support (through policy and funding opportunities) for the development and expansion of patient-centered, community health teams. In the December 2010 Monitor article “Placing the patient front and center,” experts pointed out that expansion of community health teams presents an unprecedented opportunity to integrate psychologists into the redesign of health care. Recognizing this opportunity, APA has advocated for psychologists’ inclusion in integrated interdisciplinary health-care teams and highlighted the importance of expanding psychology’s role in advancing health in its strategic plan.

To make such care a reality, psychologists will need to be prepared to excel in the varied roles within community health teams and other contexts emerging as a result of health-care redesign. These roles include contributing as providers of integrated health services, as well as facilitators of personcentered planning, a collaborative process very often required as the foundation of the patient-centered health teams. Psychologists also play key roles as evaluators of patientcentered outcomes, yet another priority area that has been identified — and funded — as a key element of health-care reform.

In each of these arenas, significant work has been done within the recovery movement, and the APA’s Recovery to Practice initiative is using this work as a foundation for a comprehensive curriculum that will support psychologists who want to enhance their competence in recovery-oriented practice. I invite you to contribute your talents and ideas to this ongoing effort. The recovery movement owes much to the contributions of psychologists, who have advanced the scientific and applied understanding of person-centered therapeutic approaches, community development strategies, rehabilitation models, organizational change processes, disability rights and advocacy, participatory research methods, and more.

Moving into the future, there is mutual benefit in psychologists playing an expanded role within the recovery movement, and the Recovery to Practice team welcomes your comments and involvement.


More on the Recovery to Practice initiative is available online.