The experience of recovery from schizophrenia: towards an empirically validated stage model

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2003 Oct;37(5):586-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1614.2003.01234.x.


Objective: The consumer movement is advocating that rehabilitation services become recovery-orientated. The objectives of this study are to gain a better understanding of the concept of recovery by: (i) identifying a definition of recovery that reflects consumer accounts; and (ii) developing a conceptual model of recovery to guide research, training and inform clinical practice.

Method: A review was conducted of published experiential accounts of recovery by people with schizophrenia or other serious mental illness, consumer articles on the concept of recovery, and qualitative research and theoretical literature on recovery. Meanings of recovery used by consumers were sought to identify a definition of recovery. Common themes identified in this literature were used to construct a conceptual model reflecting the personal experiences of consumers.

Results: The definition of recovery used by consumers was identified as psychological recovery from the consequences of the illness. Four key processes of recovery were identified: (i) finding hope; (ii) re-establishment of identity; (iii) finding meaning in life; and (iv) taking responsibility for recovery. Five stages were identified: (i) moratorium; (ii) awareness; (iii) preparation; (iv) rebuilding; and (v) growth.

Conclusion: A five-stage model compatible with psychological recovery is proposed, which offers a way forward for attaining recovery-orientated outcomes. After further empirical investigation, a version of this model could be utilized in quantitative research, clinical training and consumer education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Empirical Research
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy*
  • Self Concept