Veteran and Clinician Perceptions of Recovery and Stigma at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center

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Objective: This study assessed efforts to promote recovery-oriented and nonstigmatizing mental healthcare at 1 Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Method: The study administered 2 questionnaires, the Recovery Self-Assessment and the Survey of Attitudes Toward Mental Illness, to 139 veterans receiving mental health services and 107 clinicians at a large Veterans Affairs Medical Center in an outpatient mental health clinic, inpatient and residential mental health programs, psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) and recovery programs, and an outpatient substance abuse clinic. Analyses of covariance were used to evaluate differences across programs and between veteran consumers and clinicians. Significance was evaluated at p < .05. Results: PSR program clinicians endorsed 3 of 5 recovery domains more strongly than clinicians from the other 3 settings although all were rated highly. However, veteran consumers from the 4 programs did not differ in levels of perceived recovery-oriented practice. Despite differing levels of endorsement of the recovery model, clinicians in the 4 locations did not differ in stigmatizing beliefs and had predominantly nonstigmatizing attitudes. Veteran consumers held more stigmatizing attitudes than staff, but there was no significant interaction between veteran status and program type. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: This study suggests that efforts to foster recovery attitudes and decrease stigma among professionals have been effective in specialized PSR programs, but also general mental health programs. While there were some differences between programs and across clinicians and veteran consumers, there were generally positive attitudes toward mental illness and strong endorsement of recovery.

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