A national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services: guide for practitioners and providers

Capability 3B: Focusing on strengths and personal responsibility

Page last updated: 2013

Recovery-oriented mental health care focuses on people’s strengths and supports resilience and capacity for personal responsibility, self-advocacy and positive change.

Core principles

  • People have the capacity to recover, reclaim and transform their lives.
  • People with mental health issues want what everyone else does.
  • The personal resourcefulness, resilience and strengths of people with mental health issues are recognised and drawn upon.
  • A focus on strengths motivates and assists people to feel good about themselves and believe in their capacity for personal recovery.
  • Personal recovery begins when people reclaim responsibility for their wellbeing and decisions.
  • ‘Nothing about me, without me’—a person is the director of the therapeutic relationship.
  • The preferred setting for service delivery is in the community.
  • Naturally occurring supports are preferred.
  • People draw on the resources and strengths of their families and close relationships, and on naturally occurring resources, to recover.


Values and attitudes

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • convey their belief in people’s capacity to reach their aspirations and to shape a life rich in possibility and meaning
  • acknowledge and positively reinforce people’s strengths and capacity for personal recovery
  • reflect a strengths focus in attitude, language and actions


Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • know strengths-based approaches to service planning, including the incorporation of elements of positive psychology
  • know and understand concepts of resilience Top of page

Skills and behaviours

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • actively support people to recognise and draw on their strengths to build recovery skills and capacity for self-management of their mental health
  • support people as they build self-advocacy skills
  • work with people to understand what works well for them in their recovery efforts
  • foster people’s belief in their capacity for growth as well as their capacity to fulfil responsibilities such as parenting and personal and household management
  • support people to self-manage distressing aspects of their condition like negative moods, voices, self-harm and suicidal urges
  • relate supportively with people when they are distressed
  • support people to self-monitor triggers and early warning signs
  • support people with medication management as well as physical health and wellbeing management
  • actively foster people’s resilience and recognise its impact on recovery outcomes

Recovery-oriented practice

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • incorporate methods of enquiry that encourage learning and using mistakes or setbacks as opportunities for growth
  • use collaborative assessment processes and service planning to amplify a person’s strengths and assets, to foster responsibility, support positive identity and nurture hope
  • prompt people to consider what has worked well for them in the past
  • positively reinforce people’s successes and achievements and encourage their translation into other life contexts
  • support family and support people to focus on strengths and to encourage personal responsibility Top of page

Recovery-oriented leadership

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • foster opportunities within and beyond the service setting for people to apply and build on identified strengths
  • draw on lived expertise when incorporating strengths-based approaches into policies and procedures
  • use language in assessment processes, forms and tools and data collection that emphasises strengths and personal roles and relationships
  • encourage the co-design of new strength-based approaches and solutions with people who have a lived experience
  • model strengths-based approaches with staff and highlight the strengths of staff.


  • Use self-stigma reduction resources.
  • Adopt a strengths-based model of practice.
  • Develop information resources that promote positive messages and emphasise strengths.

Resource materials

  • Rapp & Goscha 2011, Strengths model: a recovery-oriented approach to mental health services,
  • Scottish Recovery Network, ‘Multimedia’, www.scottishrecovery.net/Multimedia/multimedia.html
  • Scottish Recovery Network, Module 3: enabling self-direction, Realising recovery,
  • Bird et al. 2012, ‘Assessing the strengths of mental health consumers: a systematic review’, Psychological Assessment, Advance online publication, doi: 10.1037/a0028983
  • Leamy et al. 2011, ‘Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis’, British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 199, pp. 445–452