The personal meaning of recovery among individuals treated for a first episode of psychosis

Psychiatr Serv. 2012 Jun;63(6):548-53. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: There is little understanding of service users' conceptions of recovery in the early phase of psychotic disorders. An enhanced understanding of personal notions of recovery may help with the development and evaluation of interventions that address the concerns of service users. This study examined personal definitions of recovery among individuals recently treated in a specialized early-intervention service in Canada.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were carried out with 30 individuals three to five years after initial treatment of a first episode of psychosis. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to examine participants' personal meanings of recovery. A typology of recovery definitions was constructed.

Results: A majority of individuals considered themselves to be recovered. Responses indicated that recovery is a multidimensional experience and is often a personalized and achievable goal at this early stage in treatment. Individuals described recovery as improvement in one or more of three domains: illness recovery, psychological and personal recovery, and social and functional recovery. There was variation in the extent to which individuals perceived that recovery involved alleviation of symptoms and elimination of underlying vulnerability to illness.

Conclusions: There were several components of the personal meanings of recovery from a first episode of psychosis and variations in the emphasis that individuals placed on each component. An overall positive outlook may be a function of younger age, shorter duration of illness, and receipt of client-centered comprehensive and phase-specific treatment. Improved understanding of personal notions of recovery can guide clinical practices to address service users' recovery goals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation / psychology*
  • Self Concept