To have a national conversation and develop systems and policies that support recovery, there needs to be a national definition of recovery. Below we will explore two versions.

SAMHSA’s Definition of “Recovery” 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration gathered peer leaders from both the mental health recovery community and the substance use recovery community to draft an inclusive definition of “recovery”: 

Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. — SAMHSA 2012

This definition also includes four supportive dimensions (health, home, purpose, and community) and ten guiding principles, which will be further discussed later in this lesson. 

Betty Ford Definition of “Recovery”

A group of interested researchers, treatment providers, recovery advocates, and policymakers were convened by the Betty Ford Institute because they recognized the need to develop a standard definition for “recovery” to advance public understanding and research.

Recovery from substance dependence is a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship — The Betty Ford Institute (2007)

To better understand this definition, it is helpful to clarify their use of some terms:

  • Sobriety refers to abstinence from alcohol and all other non-prescribed drugs.
  • Personal health refers to improved quality of personal life as defined and measured by validated instruments such as the physical health, psychological health, independence, and spirituality scales of the World Health Organization QOL instrument (WHO-QOL Group, 1998a,b).
  • Citizenship refers to living with regard and respect for those around you as defined and measured by validated instruments such as the social function and environment scales of the WHO-QOL instrument (WHO-QOL Group, 1998a,b).

Reflections: We invite you to reflect and journal on the questions below.