Social workers support the recovery of people with mental health problems. Recovery is a process whereby individuals or families restore rights, roles, and responsibilities lost through illness, disability, or other social problems. It requires hope and empowerment, supported by a vision for a different way of being.

Recovery is a concept at the heart of social work practice, though the profession is frequently following others in articulating and evidencing good practice. Yet despite the theoretical basis of recovery finding synergy with social work, there is limited research informing social workers on how best to intervene effectively and to influence the social factors enabling or impeding recovery.

The term ‘recovery’ has now become part of routine mental health service delivery and policy frequently without acknowledging its social origins. Internationally, recovery is being framed as core to community mental health service delivery, but all too frequently with reference to symptom reduction and service rationing rather than regaining control over one’s life.

Social work theory and practice largely adopts a holistic, bio-psycho-social systems approach, which is central to models of social recovery. Practitioners are working daily to support the recovery of the individuals and families they are working with, frequently using highly effective approaches such as strengths or asset-based assessments, self-directed support or enhancing social inclusion. However, ‘recovery’ is rarely taught as a social theory informing social work practice on qualifying programmes, possibly because it is under-theorised and lacking a well-developed evidence base.

Special Issue of the British Journal of Social Work, 2015

I will be editing a special issue of the British Journal of Social Work on the theme of ‘Social Work and Recovery’ with Associate Professor Lynette Joubert of the University of Melbourne, Australia. It is due to be published in 2015, but I’m gathering papers for it now.

This special issue will publish internationally relevant contributions to social work research and thinking about recovery across multiple social work fields. Social work researchers and practitioners who are researching and working in the field of recovery are invited to contribute their work to make a distinct social work contribution to the growing evidence base about recovery.

We are seeking abstracts of up to 800 words by 9th May 2014 and full papers will be required by 5th September 2014.

If you are interested, you can find full details of the aims and key themes of the special issue on the British Journal of Social Work website.