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by Ruth O. Ralph and Patrick W. Corrigan (Editors)
American Psychological Association, 2004
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Oct 27th 2005

Recovery in Mental Illness

The disentanglement of the thicket of thorny issues, associated with "recovery" from mental illness, is the crux of the riveting tome, entitled Recovery In Mental Illness.

A duo of superbly skilled editors, working in close tandem with a bevy of professionally accomplished contributors, endeavor, assiduously, to penetrate the considerably-thick haze, enveloping the hard-to-fathom research realm, of mental-illness recovery.  The textual body is infused with an almost-palpably-visceral feeling of deep concern for persons with mental illness.  And the very-well-written text offers a rich profusion of interesting insights, suggests some tentative answers, and, quite importantly, poses a plethora of seriously challenging research questions.

   Readers seeking to fathom some of the many profundities, enshrouding mental-illness recovery, will likely be rewarded with trenchant feelings of intellectual gratification.  At the least, this engrossing book should intellectually arm the attentive reader with a significantly-strengthened grasp of some of the myriad, complex issues and controversies embedded in the still-fallow, research field of mental-illness recovery.  The volume's contributors warrant many felicitations for their invaluable contribution to the still-sparse, mental-health literature, ensconced in the particular sub-niche of recovery from mental illness.

   The over-arching intention of the book is to provide an instructive overview of recovery, from mental illness, which may be of real assistance to those seeking better understanding of this daunting domain.  Towards this end, the volume has been structured as a collection of illumining articles; which, in a stylistic sense, are generally academically arid in nature.  An intellectually enriching multitude of academic references suffuse the text; and embellish materially its research value.  The textual body is further populated with instructive tables and figures.

   Very importantly, the text's expert dissection and examination of variant perspectives, concerns, and conceptual models, relating to recovery from mental illness, should spur the academically-vigorous reader to climb, toilsomely, rung by rung, the quite-difficult ladder of learning, regarding mental-illness recovery; and, hopefully, move beyond academic incognizance and uncertainty to some relatively-higher level of clarity and understanding, with respect to recovery from mental illness.

   The textual body is trifurcated, into three parts.  Several definitional concepts of "recovery", from mental illness, are delineated, adroitly, if tersely, in part one, including mental-illness recovery as a:  naturally-occurring phenomenon, even if bereft of treatment; a treatment-centric concept of recovery, encompassing psychopharmacological treatment, and assorted psychosocial interventions; and a conceptualization of recovery rooted, firmly, in the soil of hopefulness in understanding mental illness.  Also sewed, craftily, into the fabric of the book's first part is a skillful, albeit pithy, adumbration of multifarious research methods and strategies, germane to an investigation of recovery from mental illness.  Tentacles of perspicacious discussion extend farther to measures that may be utilized, potentially, for the pivotal purpose of gauging, accurately, mental-illness recovery.

   Part two, of this absorbing volume, painstakingly etches the lineaments of sundry models, concerning recovery from mental illness.  Data, tethered to the course and outcome of schizophrenia, are reviewed which, arguably, are supportive of the conceptualization, of mental-illness recovery, as a naturally-occurring phenomenon.  The possible impinging of sociocultural factors, on the course and outcome of schizophrenia, is broached also.  The contributors of another chapter, again focusing on schizophrenia, covet the defining, of recovery, in measurable terms.  A legion of factors, associated potentially with advancing or else impeding recovery (encompassing family-related factors, substance abuse, and neurocognitive-associated factors), are reviewed.  Another chapter, in part two, enriches an understanding of mental-illness recovery, from a sociologic standpoint, by artfully weaving together strands of sociologic theories tied to a fuller understanding of recovery from mental illness.  Also falling within the ambit of part two is a thoughtful discourse appertaining to perhaps-disparate-yet-possibly-linked verbal definitions and visual models possibly relevant to defining and describing mental-illness recovery.  Lastly, in the second part, there is a chapter expounding expertly on a recovery-research approach, entailing in substance a qualitative-rooted eliciting of the experiences of psychiatrically disabled persons.

   The volume's third part seeks to further sensitize the reader to the potentially great usefulness of carefully viewing mental-illness recovery from numerous perspectives.  The heart of one chapter is the knotty relationship binding particular settings and the understandings of individual persons concerning mental-illness recovery.  Particularly, the threads of the setting of mutual-help groups are carefully separated and studied, in search of their possible influence on the comprehension of individuals regarding recovery from mental illness.  Recovery, in another chapter, is eyed critically through the chilling prism of recovery from physical and sexual-abuse trauma.  This sobering chapter also describes concept mapping, as it relates to the constructing of a conceptual framework pertinent to healing from abuse.  The respective recovery experiences from addiction, and from psychiatric disabilities, are contrasted and compared, interestingly, in the volume's final chapter.

   The content of this, overall, very-excellent book plainly reveal that recovery from mental illness is a field fertile with ideas, concepts, and views; rife with fractiousness; and quite lacking in definitive answers.  What, for instance, does it mean, exactly, to "recover", from mental illness?  There is, presently, a lack of consensus among investigators regarding the proper defining, of mental-illness recovery, for research purposes.  Even if recovery can consensually be defined, numerous other contentious questions abound.  For example, how should "recovery", for investigative purposes, appropriately be measured?  If recovery can be defined, and measured, consensually,how, in plain terms, do people recover from mental illness?  And what conditions and factors are possibly conducive, to mental-illness recovery?

   To their considerable credit, the volume's contributors doughtily tackle the plainly evident contentiousness, seeping through the research-issues-ridden terrain, of mental-illness recovery.   A major strength of the book is that its contributors insistently, and helpfully, focus sharp attention on myriad, unsettled questions of keen investigative interest; while also exuding unyielding determination to add considerably more flesh to the bones of the underfed research corpus, of mental-illness recovery.  The informative analysis contributed by various experts will, hopefully, function as a springboard, to further, academically rigorous, mental-illness-recovery-related research.

   The book is very highly recommended to researchers as well as clinicians connected, in some professional capacity, to the issues-filled realm of recovery from mental illness.


© 2005 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.