There is a global shift to foster patient-centred and recovery-oriented mental health services. This has resulted from the expansion of how the concept of recovery is understood in mental health literature and practice. Recovery is now more than a return to function or reduction in symptoms; it is a subjective, individualised and multi-faceted experience. To date there has not been investigation of how recovery-oriented services can be translated and implemented into the primary mental health care system. This paper presents the results of a survey from a prospective cohort of primary care patients with probable depression about the importance of written plans to recover. The benefits of having a written plan to recover from depression, as outlined by the participants, were analysed using Leximancer software. The findings provide insights into how written plans may be an important mechanism for implementing a recovery-oriented primary mental health care system. We conclude that the benefits of a written plan provide insight into how patients conceptualise recovery.