Mental health services should aim to achieve what medicine has achieved in many areas. Treatment that produces recovery!
However, psychological or psychotherapeutic treatments are not the same as medical treatments.
Medical treatment can reliably rest upon the identification of symptoms of or manifestations of illness, whether it be a virus, infection, lesion or other physiological dysfunction, disease or malady. Contemporary medical science is reasonably able to accurately identify, diagnose, treat and cure most physical or somatic complaints.
Psychology is not! Why not? Because the ability to accurately identify emotional, psychological or existential malaise relies upon observation and interpretation which is not sufficient to adequately state with reasonable accuracy what is wrong and, thus, what would resolve the difficulty. This is because of the centrality of the person in the role of the client in the field of psychology. in this field, what the person says about their experience of difficulty or distress is as important, if not more important, than what a clinical expert is able to interpret, far less able even to observe with any degree of reliability.
Therefore, recovery is a complicated notion in this arena of mental health treatments. Keeping aside political persuasion and economic arguments, recovery is possible if one of two possible positions are adopted in relation to the treatment of the person who expresses emotional or psychological or existential distress or difficulty.
First, recovery is possible if what is wrong is subjected to a different system of taxonomy than physical illness. in other words, the language of illness needs to be re-construed in order that the notion of recovery is not recovering from something but recovering one’s life or recovering for….
Second, recovery is possible as long as you do not define recovery in terms of the reduction of pathology or symptomatology but rather the creation of a manner of viewing the world in terms of embracing the inevitable difficulties that have to be faced in life in order for it to be understood by the person and experienced as meaningful.
Either of these two positions make recovery a possible and plausible reality for people and they further raise questions about the role of the clinician or practitioner invested in the work of providing treatments that aim for recovery that will be addressed shortly.