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

Capability 3C: Collaborative relationships and reflective practice

Page last updated: 2013

Recovery-oriented mental health practitioners demonstrate reflective practice and build collaborative, mutually respectful, partnership-based relationships with people to support them to build their lives in the ways that they wish to.

Core principles

  • Recovery-oriented mental health practice and service delivery are built upon mutually respectful and collaborative partnerships.
  • Supporting another person’s recovery requires mental health practitioners to reflect on their own culture, values and beliefs and be aware of their own mental health.
  • High-quality therapeutic relationships require ongoing critical reflection and continuous learning.


Values and attitudes

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • demonstrate openness and willingness to learn from the person in recovery as well as from their family and support people
  • value and warmly invite a collaborative relationship
  • are open to adapting to people’s different and changing needs and doing things differently
  • convey respect for a person as an equal partner in the therapeutic relationship
  • demonstrate a commitment to reflective practice and its role in authentic engagement and building mutually respectful and collaborative relationships


Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • understand the impact their own culture, values and life experience have on their relationships and interactions with people using services
  • know and can use a range of collaborative practices
  • know and demonstrate proficiency in reflective practice Top of page

Skills and behaviours

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • acknowledge the possible impacts on people of the values, biases and beliefs built into professional training and service systems
  • persist with engaging respectfully with those who have declined assistance or who do not feel motivated
  • build trust and reciprocity with consumers
  • encourage honest and open discussion of areas of agreement and disagreement as well as difference in values and priorities
  • collaboratively work through differences of opinion, negotiate and resolve conflict and establish a mutually acceptable compromise or middle ground
  • acknowledge and explore power differences in the therapeutic relationship and their possible impacts
  • where appropriate, share aspects of one’s own life experience to empathise with a person as well as to amplify a person’s sense of motivation

Recovery-oriented practice

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • within a collaborative, partnership-based relationship, offer knowledge about the best available treatments and supports
  • offer professional expertise to alleviate distressing symptoms, minimise the impact of mental health issues and prevent relapse, hospitalisation and harmful risk
  • encourage honest discussion and collaborative decision making about treatment choices, including medication and its role alongside a wide range of other types of resilience-promoting supports, skills and strengths Top of page

Recovery-oriented leadership

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • provide opportunities for staff to recognise, reflect on and celebrate a person’s recovery achievements and outcomes
  • build opportunities for consumers to be involved in service change, practice development and professional development
  • incorporate a focus on collaborative practice in policies and procedures as well as in recruitment, professional development and continuous quality improvement
  • recognise that good collaborative care takes time, both time spent with people and within the team
  • support staff to prioritise the space and time necessary for collaborative and reflective practice.


In collaboration with people with lived experience of mental health issues develop resources to support the building of collaborative therapeutic relationships.

Resource materials

  • Oades et al. 2005, ‘Collaborative recovery: an integrative model for working with individuals who experience chronic and recurring mental illness’, Australasian Psychiatry, vol.13, no. 3, pp. 279–284
  • Mental Health Association of Central Australia, ‘Helen Glover: collaborative recovery training program’, www.mhaca.org.au/helen-glover-training.html (This site was active at time of publishing.)
  • Scottish Recovery Network, Module 2: using self to develop recovery-oriented practice, Realising recovery, www.scottishrecovery.net/Realising-Recovery/realising-recovery.html