Getting By, Getting Back, and Getting On: Matching Mental Health Services to Consumers’ Recovery Goals

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Objective: The goal of this study was to better understand mental health recovery from the point of view of mental health consumers to identify opportunities for practice improvements that closely align services with consumer goals and consumer-preferred outcomes. Method: As part of an exploratory study of recovery, semistructured interviews were conducted with 177 integrated health plan members diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or affective psychosis. Transcripts of in-depth interviews were coded using Atlas.ti, and definitions of recovery were further subcoded. A qualitative analysis using a modified grounded theory approach and constant comparative method identified common themes and less common but potentially important recovery-related experiences and perspectives. Results: Three primary and 2 cross-cutting themes emerged. “Getting by” meant coping and meeting basic needs. “Getting back” meant learning to live with mental illness. “Getting on” meant living a life where mental illness was no longer prominent. Regaining control and recouping losses were cross-cutting themes. Conclusions/Implications for Practice: Mental health recovery is complex and dynamic; individuals’ recovery goals can be expected to change over time. Person-centered care must accommodate changing consumer priorities, services must be flexible and responsive, and outcomes need to match consumers’ objectives. Clinicians can assist in (a) identifying recovery goals, (b) monitoring progress toward and recognizing movement away from goals, (c) tailoring support to different phases/stages, and (d) supporting transitions between phases/stages.

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