The Five Stages of the Recovery Process

1. Impact of Illness

The individual is overwhelmed by the disabling power of the illness.

The symptoms and the resulting behavior are the controlling experience in a person’s life and the person is often not able to function.

The danger is that the person will re‐define him‐ or herself in mental illness terminology that will automatically limit his or her future.

The role of services is to decrease the emotional distress by reducing the symptoms and communicating that there is life after diagnosis.

2. Life is Limited

The person has given in to the disabling power of the illness.

The person doesn’t like his or her life the way it is, but believes it is the best it will ever be.  He or she is not ready or able to make a commitment to change.

The danger is that the person will resign him‐ or herself to this life and refuse to acknowledge that there is anything he or she can do that will make a difference in his or her life.

The role of services is to instill hope and a sense of possibility and to rebuild a positive self‐image.

3. Change is Possible

The person believes that there has to be more to life than he or she is currently experiencing and is beginning to believe that his or her life can be different.

The danger is that the person will be afraid to or discouraged from taking the necessary risks and remain in the “life is limited” stage.

The role of services is to help the person see that he or she is not so limited by the illness, and in order to move on, he or she will need to take some risks.

4. Commitment to Change

The person is challenging the disabling power of the illness.

The person believes there are possibilities, but isn’t sure what they are or what to do.  He or she is willing to explore what it will take to make some changes.

The danger is that the person will not get the necessary skills, resources, and supports that he or she needs to do what he or she wants to do and will not succeed in moving forward.

The role of services is to help the person identify the strengths and needs in terms of skills, resources, and supports.

5. Action to Change

The person is moving beyond the disabling power of the illness.

The person had decided the direction that he or she wants his or her life to go and is willing to take more responsibility for his or her decisions and actions.

The danger is that he or she will begin to doubt his or her ability to function on his or her own, trust his or her own decisions, and revert back to a life lived in the system.

The role of services is to help the person trust in his or her own decision‐making ability and take more responsibility for his or her life.