Context and the Recovery Process

Context and the Recovery Process

Personal Recovery: Internal and External Factors
Personal recovery does not occur in a vacuum and is instead influenced not only by the person and their characteristics but also by their environment.

Recovery refers to both internal conditions experienced by persons who describe themselves as being in recovery—hope, healing, empowerment and connection—and external conditions that facilitate recovery—implementation of human rights, a positive culture of healing, and recovery-oriented services. (Jacobson and Greenley, 2001, p. 482).

A person’s own characteristics are considered to be those things “inside” the person and are defined as “internal factors” – they can include:

  • beliefs, hopes, and desires;
  • psychological experiences such as happiness or sadness;
  • our personality traits;
  • personal characteristics such as insight, determination, and resilience;
  • knowledge and skills.

The characteristics of a person’s environment are seen as those things “outside” the person and are defined as “external factors” – they can include:

  • social or romantic relationships;
  • the local and broader community;
  • housing situation;
  • opportunities to engage in meaningful and leisure activities;
  • money and employment opportunities;
  • mental health services.

Interaction between Internal & External Factors: Context
Although both internal and external factors contribute to the personal recovery process, they do not work in isolation. Instead, these factors can have an impact upon each other and work together in a dynamic and non-linear fashion, and it is this interplay that creates the context for personal recovery.

The word ‘context’ derives from the Latin meaning to ‘weave together’ and it is this interweaving of different factors in our lives that contribute towards the recovery process. For each person, it is only when the right ‘mix’ of internal and external factors occur that it can happen. In other words, the better the mix, the better the level of personal recovery.

Image showing the interaction between our internal and external factors.

Figure 2.1  Diagram shows the interaction between internal and external factors in creating contexts for recovery

For some, external factors will have an impact upon internal ones. To take an example, when speaking with a peer worker (external factor) in a mental health service, a person might be encouraged to think about their personal strengths such as the skills they have (internal factor) and these could be used to start looking for a job.

For others, their internal factors will have an impact upon external ones. To take another example, a person’s sense of hope (internal factor) that their community (external factor) could be a safer place might encourage them to start up a neighbourhood watch with some of the other people living nearby.

Helping and Hindering Contexts

While the interactions between internal and external factors are needed to create the context for personal recovery, these interactions do not always help and instead some can hinder the process. Presented below are some examples of helping and hindering processes divided into internal and external factors (Davidson, 2003).

Image showing the helping and hindering, internal and external factors.

Figure 2.2  Internal and external factors that help and hinder personal recovery