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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kingwell


Updated: Jul 24, 2021

What do you think of when I say RECOVERY?

The definition of the word ‘Recovery’ is to return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength, so how is recovery defined in terms of mental health wellbeing and what practices can be used to support an individual in their journey through recovery.

When we hear the word recovery, we may be inclined to think of a recovering addict, someone who has had a major accident and is in recovery, we may, therefore, believe we are exempt from recovery as we have nothing to recover from, however, it is quite the contrary. In this short essay, I will relay my journey with recovery, how it is used in the mental health sector, strategies we can apply to our own lives and how it relates to Art therapy. Recovery can lead to a fulfilling life, giving us a purpose to wake up in the morning and a peaceful mind to help us fall into a deep, satisfying sleep each night.

For me, recovery is about reigniting my passion, rediscovering a sense of self and awakening the meaning of life after I have lost sight of my motivation, in moments where I feel lost and out of sorts with who I am and where my life is heading. Recovery is about looking at your whole self, all areas of your life, not just focusing on the one experience or event that may have negatively impacted your life in the current moment, you aren’t just that heartbreak, that grief, that loss or even those bad days you are so much more. In life, we all face challenges that can leave us feeling hopeless, worthless and can lead to, or even trigger, much deeper rooted mental health concerns. Throughout my journey, I have experienced the loss of self and identity, and when life gave me these lessons I chose the not so enlightened path towards recovery, as I too felt hopeless and worthless. At times where I felt there was no hope, and I couldn’t face the challenges, I developed unhealthy coping strategies that further deepened my mental health issues and accelerated the distance between who I wanted to be, who I knew I was, and the person I was becoming. Recovery allowed me to begin to get to know myself again, reignite my passion for ART and move forward from the challenges, creating a self that I was content with. Recovery is my journey and it is a lifelong process of self-development, self-growth and discovery.

In the mental health sector, Recovery is defined as a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person living with mental health, to create a meaningful life in the community, striving to achieve his or her full potential. Many people who work in the sector use the recovery model with clients, the recovery model is a person-centred approach, and is quickly becoming the standard model for mental health care. The main objective of the recovery model is to empower someone and give someone hope, the hallmark principle is the belief that people can recover from mental illness, and I believe recovery can apply to anyone facing challenges in their life. A major strength of the recovery model, compared to say medication and standard treatments, is that it focuses on an individuals strengths and abilities rather than on their diagnosis, or one particular event in someone’s life. It places trust in the individual to know their own experiences and choose their path towards recovery, and what treatment or strategies will work for them. When talking about recovery concerning mental health, the recovery model aims to guide people living with mental illnesses to more than just survive and exist, but to live a full life, it encourages them to move forward, set new goals, and develop new meanings to their life. With anyone who faces life challenges, the recovery model can do the same, it can give someone meaning to move forward, to recover and rediscover who they are and who they want to become.

During my studies of mental health, we have learnt about models of recovery, stages of change, and many more strategies to promote mental health wellness, I have created my own recovery ‘wheel of life’ tracker, so I can look at what areas of my life I am disregarding, where am I focusing my attention, am I living my life to its full. The wheel of life for me, allows me to weekly reflect on my whole self, my passions, my friends, my health, my career- for my wheel of life I have 8 sections, you can create your own by googling wheel of life to see examples. The idea of the wheel of life is to see where you are putting most of your energy, what are you ignoring, and ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 how satisfied are you in each area, it may look like a strange uneven shape to start with, the idea is to have a whole self, is to give equally to each area until you have an almost even circle. Set yourself small weekly goals in each area, break these down into achievable daily goals, and trust the process of recovery.

With incorporating recovery, with Art Therapy, I want to empower and inspire individuals to express their whole self, sometimes we may not have the words to communicate how we feel and using art as a process that promotes self-autonomy, and self-discovery can release our emotional state onto a blank canvas, telling our story without speaking. I will ensure that I apply the recovery-orientated practice principles with SKART and that every session is directed by the individual, in one-on-one settings, peer support workers can instil hope in others towards recovery, in group settings, and collaboratively engaging in meaningful activities. There have been studies on the prevalence of Art-practices with recovery, and they have attracted increasing interest in the mental health setting as they can offer person-centred and recovery orientated approaches that embrace emotional, social and spiritual needs alongside the clinical. At SKART, I aim to inspire others to create and express themselves freely in a safe space, building social connections, individual self-esteem and rediscovery of self. Shifting own attitudes to life and yourself is a part of recovery, negative self-talk is loud and when we believe and live with this negative self-image, it can be hard to adopt a more positive outlook on life, with SKART the main objective is that creating art can provide someone with the chance to fully immerse themselves, and get lost in the practice of painting, recognising the negative self-talk and working through any unresolved feelings. SKART wants you to take ownership of your journey, and your art creating, feel empowered and hopeful in every aspect of your life.

Recovery can vary in meaning, every individual’s journey is unique, you are unique. Rediscovering yourself is a process in itself, by applying recovery models like the wheel of life I hope you can rediscover a part of yourself, and begin to move forward, towards a whole sense of self. Recovery, although applied throughout the mental health sector, can apply to any individual who has a loss of direction in their life, when working in the mental health sector understanding the strategies and models of recovery can enhance the therapeutic relationship, empower clients to know their strengths and take ownership of their life journey. When we think of recovery, we can understand that it is a journey, and by sharing our experiences of recovery can give hope to others, there is hope you too can move forward.

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