Recovery from Severe Mental Illness: The Lived Experience of the Initial Phase of Treatment


Social Work

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Purpose: This hermeneutic phenomenological study examined the lived experience of persons recovering from serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI). The study reports results from the first six months of treatment and is part of a two-year longitudinal study. Method: Forty-four adults with SPMI referred to county case management services were recruited for the study. A semi-structured interview was conducted for 1-2 hours to elicit client narratives of their experience in recovery. The interviews were transcribed, read, and coded to cluster thematic aspects in each case and across cases. Atlas-t was used to recode transcripts and retrieve quotes to dimensionalize each essential theme. Transcripts were reread for confirming and disconfirming evidence for each theme. Results: Five themes were identified: 1) “life is happening around me” 2) striving for independence 3)“being in there with me” 4) pacing recovery and creating optimal challenge 5) the wish for meaningful community participation. Implications for Practice: Findings delineate critical factors in early stage recovery as identified by persons with SPMI. They highlight the need for clients to be an active collaborator in determining areas of therapeutic attention and emphasize the importance of relational factors in developing experiences of mastery and a more functional sense of self. Obstacles described by clients in early phase recovery provide new insight and meaning into problems of motivation and non-compliance in treatment. Findings suggest important areas for staff training and advocacy services.





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International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation

Citation/Other Information

Bradshaw, W., Roseborough, D. J., & Armour, M. (2006). Recovery from Severe Mental Illness: The Lived Experience of the Initial Phase of Treatment. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 10(1), 123–131.

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