Preparing Psychologists to Work Within the Recovery Movement: The Train Has Left the Station

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Last fall I had the opportunity to attend the American Psychological Association (APA) convention in Washington, DC. As I later wrote on the Hogg Blog, I was impressed by the number of presentations that focused on recovery. Recovery is a positive and powerful movement defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration as “A process of change through which individuals [with mental illness] improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

However, this movement has been slow to make its way into the training of psychologists. An article in this month’s APA Monitor does a nice job outlining the history of the recovery movement and its arrival into psychology at the APA level, but notes that the movement has not “become well integrated into psychology.” The article does reveal that the APA is addressing this issue and I am thrilled to read that it is developing modules on recovery to pilot test in graduate training programs. These modules might go into effect as early as next year.

Having taught in a doctoral and master’s program for a decade, I know some faculty may struggle with the weight of yet another curriculum requirement. These programs are already full with other required courses, but I hope they will see that this is a truly transformative movement in the mental health field. It’s one that I believe fits nicely in the framework of the multicultural counseling and social justice values our profession has already embraced.

Soon, future and current psychologists may find themselves working alongside certified peer specialists, mental health consumers who have sufficiently progressed in their own recovery to help others working through mental illness. In Texas, some services provided by certified peer specialists are already billable through Medicaid and therefore recognized as a legitimate part of the treatment and recovery process. Meanwhile, many psychologists are not even familiar with the words “recovery,” “consumer” and “peer specialist.” Psychologists need more than just familiarity with these terms; they have to be able to provide their services within the recovery model that is already being put into practice.

Clearly, the train has left the station. As psychologists, we do ourselves and our future colleagues a disservice by not running to catch up and jump on board.

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