Increasingly, people coping with mental and addictive disorders are redefining
the meaning of recovery. Historically, recovery has been regarded as abstinence
from drugs or the absence of symptoms. But emerging definitions seek to go beyond
abstinence or absence to include re-engagement with life.
At SAMHSA, our vision is of a life in the community for everyone—a fulfilling
life that includes a job, a home, and meaningful relationships with family and
friends. Our mission is to make this vision a reality, by building resilience
and facilitating recovery for people with substance abuse and mental illness.
Our vision and our mission guide all our efforts here at SAMHSA: our policies
and programs. So it makes sense to evaluate the outcomes of our programs within
the context of recovery. SAMHSA has identified several ways to measure resilience
and recovery, including, among others, increased or retained employment or school
enrollment, increased stability in family and living conditions, and—most
important—increased social connectedness. Perhaps more than anything else,
a strong support system is essential to help people overcome challenges that
might seem insurmountable when confronted alone.
This issue of SAMHSA News highlights one such effort—the Recovery
Community Services Program—that capitalizes on the unique contribution
that people in recovery can make to their peers (see cover story). Services provided
by peers in recovery—such as providing information and referral; mentoring
others in the areas of life skills, education, and employment; and offering emotional
support and guidance based on first-hand experience—complement, extend,
and enhance the formal treatment provided by professionals. Peer services simultaneously
offer a sense of empowerment to those who have preceded and a positive role model
to those who follow.
Equally important, peer services provide the community connectedness and social
support that are so necessary to sustain recovery.
At SAMHSA, we recognize that the process of recovery is a highly individualized
experience and may include certain components for some people and different ones
for others. We likewise recognize that recovery is achieved via many different
pathways and that it is a process that may continue in stages that—for
many people—may span a lifetime.
Recovery is a journey along a continuum of change. Peers can play a critical
role in furthering change by offering hope, motivation, and affirmation that
treatment works and recovery is real.
Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.