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The 10 Guiding Principles of Recovery

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For years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has used a specific definition for recovery. This definition is meant to help healthcare professionals and policymakers treat, direct, and study those who are dealing with these kinds of health issues. 

The definition of recovery laid out by SAMHSA is, “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Along with this definition, SAMHSA has included 10 guiding principles meant to help those in recovery, and the therapists and other professionals working with them set goals, measure progress, and overcome addiction. 

These guiding principles are:

  • Recovery emerges from hope: A belief that you will be able to overcome your addiction as you face and conquer internal and external challenges is essential to continued progress and to lasting happiness. 
  • Recovery is person-driven: An addict must be involved in setting their own goals and choosing their own path as they work through recovery. This involvement is supported by determination and self-direction.
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways: No case of addiction is the same, and no recovery is the same. Each person’s pathway to a healthy life is different, and hinges upon an individual’s unique needs, goals, past experiences, and cultural influences.
  • Recovery is holistic: In order to successfully overcome addiction, the whole person must be treated. This includes addressing issues on an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual level. 
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies: developing new social skills, receiving support, and sharing in others’ experiences are all essential parts of recovery. 
  • Recovery is supported through relationships and social networks:  Recovering addicts benefit greatly from the support of those who have an attitude of encouragement and hope, who can offer ideas for change, and who are willing to be involved in their lives.  
  • Recovery is culturally-based and influenced: An addict’s unique pathway to recovery is influenced by their beliefs, traditions, values, and other cultural aspects.
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma: Those working with an addict for recovery should be aware of and sensitive to their exposure to trauma, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, as these situations are often a precursor to addiction.