David is a member of our client involvement group Outside In and has been using our psychotherapy service since May 2014. He discusses how the ‘Recovery approach’ has helped him turnaround and regain control of his life.
‘What is the point of changing my life, when no one cares or it will not make a difference?’
This is a comment that I often hear, especially in hostels and from those sleeping rough. This is not acceptable! It was not until I was in Outside In, a St Mungo’s client involvement group, that I learnt how to challenge that view. This is called the ‘Recovery approach’ and I have been asked to write about it.
This is how I understand it. The old system is called the ‘Maintenance approach’, and, as the name suggests, it keeps everyone under control. A classic example is when I was talking to someone with mental health issues. I was talking about how people like himself were finding work improves their mental health. He promptly told me that his GP told him to only do voluntary work as his benefits gave him a life.
I almost exploded with anger as I find this attitude is cruel and divisive. No wonder welfare costs are so high and tax payers are finding it hard to make work pay. Also no one benefits as we have wasted a valuable resource. Unfortunately this approach has been around as long as humans so we have a hard task to make necessary changes.
“It starts with the person taking control of their recovery”
I believe the ‘Recovery approach’ started when a patient with mental health issues was hearing six different voices and his physiatrist threatened to section him if he did not take his medicine. He refused, walked out of hospital and started the ‘Recovery approach’.
This starts with the client taking control of their recovery. From day one, the keyworker will ask their client what they want in their life. Then the keyworker makes a plan of action around what the client has said. I find this idea brilliant because clients have found that they can change and have a life.
“How the two approaches differ”
The ‘Maintenance system’ is all about control. For example, making sure medication is taken and keeping the client calm, setting times when clients can watch television and stopping clients causing trouble. It has a strict regime of regulations and punishment.
The ‘Recovery approach’ is simply based on the Client taking control. There are as few rules as possible, and so the client feels at home and in control. Another way of explaining this is that the client and keyworker have a professional and friendly relationship. This of course helps to get rid of the ‘them and us’ attitude which destroys opportunity and lives.
“My life has seen a complete turnaround”
I want to say that I believe very strongly about the benefits of the ‘Recovery approach’ and my life has seen a complete turnaround. Obviously as this is a new approach it will take time for everyone to use it. I have changed from someone who has never succeeded in anything I wanted to do, never being able to put my point across successfully, being the butt of everyone’s jokes and just not learning how to have a full and successful life.
I was shown I could present speeches that were well received. I also realised that I learn things quickly and I passed the peer facilities course. This enables me to chair meetings and present courses. All of this has lifted my self-esteem and now I know I can describe myself in a far more confident and successful manner. I also have plans for my future and hope to live until I am 90 or even more.
One main change for the better is that I have always had an interest in current affairs and, even though my parents firmly put a stop to this, I have rekindled my interest and also improved my presentation skills. I have been to Parliament with the Campaigns team at St Mungo’s. This was fun.
I find that I now regret wasting so much of my first 54 years of life, but I remind myself that the rest is mine to control. I find this idea exciting and enabling.