How the Recovery Model Helps Point the Way Forward

The recovery model is a holistic, patient-centered approach to mental healthcare. It has been the foundation of Colorado Recovery’s non-institutional approach to living with mental health disorders for years.

Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner used empirical evidence to challenge the previously prevailing view of schizophrenia and other disorders, which suggested that psychosis was strongly characterized by poor clinical and social outcomes. Since then, epidemiological, sociological, psychological, and biological research has made many aspects of that outdated model unsustainable.

“A central tenet of the recovery model is that empowerment of the user is important in achieving a good outcome in serious mental illness,” wrote Dr. Warner in 2010. “To understand why this may be so, it is important to appreciate that people with mental illness may feel disempowered, not only as a result of involuntary confinement or paternalistic treatment but also by their own acceptance of the stereotype of a person with mental illness.”

“The recovery model aims to help people with mental illnesses and distress to look beyond mere survival and existence,” wrote psychiatry professor K. S. Jacob in 2015. “It encourages them to move forward and set new goals. It supports the view that they should get on with their lives, do things, and develop relationships that give their lives meaning.”


“We are here to help our clients move forward and achieve their goals,” says clinical therapist Julie Owen, MA, LPC. “We are here to help provide what might be needed. For a lot of our clients that’s going to be working through the fear of being stuck when they don’t want to be stuck anymore. They may be willing to take a small step toward something they might like to have in their life. We want to help them build the courage to take that step themselves.”

Feeling a sense of empowerment and achievement is a crucial element of moving forward in treating a serious mental illness. “It’s important to convey a sense of moving forward,” says Owen. “It’s a new year and we’re asking them ‘What would you like to try?’ and ‘What would you like to do in your life that you haven’t done yet?’ From there, we begin to explore what’s keeping them from taking that step. What is holding them back?”

In many cases, people with mental illness have been held back by the fear of being stigmatized. Empowering and encouraging clients is essential to overcome the many prejudices that too many Americans still carry with them: the stereotype that makes them believe a person with a mental illness is incapable, unpredictable, even violent, and worthless.

“There’s always the fear that it may not work out for them and we’re here to help them work through that,” says Owen.

Colorado Recovery offers outpatient care for people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other severe mental illnesses in a community-integrated treatment environment designed to meet those needs. We are also accepting admissions at the transitional living level for those who may have attended another program but are interested in support while living more independently.

Our mission is to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.