How does the public understand recovery from severe mental illness versus substance use disorder?

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychological Phenomena and Processes | Substance Abuse and Addiction


OBJECTIVE: Recovery from severe mental illnesses (SMI) has been described as an outcome (end state where persons are symptom free) or as a process (despite symptoms, people can pursue life goals). Less clear is whether recovery as a process has credibility in the substance use disorders (SUD) community. We examined how public perceptions and expectations of outcome and process between SMI and SUD differed. A severity effect within SMI and SUD categories was also examined.

METHOD: Participants (N = 195) read definitions of SMI and SUD and completed an online survey of their agreement on: perceptions of recovery from SMI and SUD as outcome and process, and expectations of recovery as outcome and process. Participants were then given more and less severe SMI (i.e., schizophrenia vs. depression) and SUD (opiate vs. alcohol use) definitions. They then responded to recovery items SMI and SUD conditions with low and high severity.

RESULTS: For SMI, perceptions and expectations of recovery as process were endorsed more than outcome. Severity effect led to greater increases in perceptions and expectations about recovery as process. Specifically, differences between outcome and process for schizophrenia were significantly larger than for depression. For SUD, expectations of process were significantly lower than outcome ratings. One negative interaction was found for SUD expectations; difference scores for opiate users were smaller than for alcohol.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: We discussed implications for interventions that enhance recovery for people with SMI and SUD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


recovery, severe mental illnesses, substance use disorders, peer services

DOI of Published Version



Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2019 Jun 27. doi: 10.1037/prj0000380. [Epub ahead of print] Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Psychiatric rehabilitation journal

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID