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Family Recovery

Family Recovery is a concept that acknowledges that the well-being of the person experiencing a mental illness is closely intertwined with the well-being of close family members. Since mental illness impacts entire families, all family members must be provided the opportunity to participate in their own individual recovery process. Recovery does not necessarily mean absence of illness. Rather, recovery is about learning how to live and even thrive where mental illness is present. It is important for people to know that recovery is possible, and that family members can undertake this journey together.

The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Ontario, offers a good explanation of the concept:

Recovery has been referred to as a process, an outlook, a vision and a guiding principle. Recovery has also been described as a process by which people recover their self-esteem, dreams, self-worth, empowerment, pride, dignity and meaning. For professionals and families, recovery is about treating the whole person: identifying their strengths, instilling hope, helping them to function by helping them take responsibility for their lives (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2014).

What distinguishes the concept of family recovery from traditional recovery models is the idea that by supporting individual family members with their own recovery journeys, you are also enhancing the well-being of the person experiencing mental illness. These ideas are explored by Joanne Nicholson (2014) in the book Motherhood, Mental Illness and Recovery where she says, “What and how well mothers do influence other family members and vice versa; many mothers will acknowledge they are only doing as well as their children are doing at any point in time. They are encouraged when things go well with their children and may be demoralized when things go poorly (p. 7).”

In the context of parental mental health one could simply say that what is good for the parent is good for the child, and what is good for the child is good for the parent. Thus, by supporting children who have parents with mental illness, you are also supporting the parent with their own recovery journey.


Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2014, October 19). Recovery. Retrieved from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

Nicholson, J. (2014). Supporting Mothers Living with Mental Illnesses in Recovery. In Motherhood, Mental Illness and Recovery (pp. 3-17). Orangeburg: Springer.