Factors Facilitating Recovery: (Gaining) Recovery Capital

Here’s the last of the 11 factors facilitating recovery that I wrote about in my book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol AddictionJust because it is last, does not mean it is the least important factor. In fact, it is one of the most important!

Recovery is better predicted by someone’s assets and strengths, rather than their ‘pathologies’, deficits and weaknesses. People can make progress by identifying and building on their personal assets and strengths. Interventions to facilitate recovery must focus on helping individuals build their recovery strengths, more often referred to as ‘recovery capital’. 

Recovery capital is the quantity and quality of internal and external resources that one can bring to bear on the initiation and maintenance of recovery [1]. It takes three main forms:

• Personal (e.g. physical health, mental health, financial assets, housing, values, knowledge, self-esteem, self-efficacy, problem-solving capacity, etc)

• Family/social (support from family and other loved ones, people in recovery, and people in the wider social network, etc)

• Community (local recovery role models, full continuum of treatment and other support services, mutual aid groups, less prejudice in community, opportunities for work and volunteering, etc).

Recovery capital, both in terms of quantity and quality, plays a major role in determining the success or failure of recovery, either natural recovery or recovery assisted by treatment and/or peer support groups. People with low levels of recovery capital, for example homeless people without a job, are likely to face much greater problems in achieving recovery than people who are seeking recovery from a position of privilege. Increases in recovery capital can spark turning points that trigger recovery initiation and strengthen the maintenance of recovery. 

Most clients with severely depleted family and community recovery capital gain little from individually-focused addiction treatment that fails to mobilise family and community resources. In fact, long-term recovery outcomes may have more to do with family and community recovery capital than the attributes of individuals or a particular treatment protocol.

The points made about recovery capital above indicate that recovery from addiction is holistic. This means that people on a recovery journey may require access to a variety of services. In relation to these needs, a section of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states:

‘Recovery encompasses a person’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. This includes addressing ‘self-care practices, family, housing, employment, transportation, education, clinical treatment for mental disorders and substance use disorders, services and supports, primary healthcare, dental care, complementary and alternative services, faith, spirituality, creativity, social networks, and community participation. The array of services and supports should be integrated and coordinated.’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services [2]

1 David Best and Alexandre B Laudet, The Potential of Recovery Capital, The RSA, UK.

2 SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, USA.