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The recovery model refers to subjective experiences of optimism, empowerment and interpersonal support, and to a focus on collaborative treatment approaches, finding productive roles for user/consumers, peer support and reducing stigma. The model is influencing service development around the world. This review will assess whether optimism about outcome from serious mental illness and other tenets of the recovery model are borne out by recent research.Remission of symptoms has been precisely defined, but the definition of ‘recovery’ is a more diffuse concept that includes such factors as being productive and functioning independently. Recent research and a large, earlier body of data suggest that optimism about outcome from schizophrenia is justified. A substantial proportion of people with the illness will recover completely and many more will regain good social functioning. Outcome is better for people in the developing world. Mortality for people with schizophrenia is increasing but is lower in the developing world. Working appears to help people recover from schizophrenia, and recent advances in vocational rehabilitation have been shown to be effective in countries with differing economies and labor markets. A growing body of research supports the concept that empowerment is an important component of the recovery process.Key tenets of the recovery model – optimism about recovery from schizophrenia, the importance of access to employment and the value of empowerment of user/consumers in the recovery process – are supported by the scientific research. Attempts to reduce the internalized stigma of mental illness should enhance the recovery process.