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SAMHSA Issues New Definition of ‘Recovery’ From Mental Disorders and Substance-Use Disorders

SAMHSA’s new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders, released in late December, is the product of a year-long effort to capture the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental disorders and substance-use disorders, along with major guiding principles that support the recovery definition. The new working definition 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.”

SAMHSA called on behavioral health leaders to develop the draft definition in August 2010 and posted the working definition and principles that resulted from this process on the SAMHSA blog in August 2011. 

Comments from the public were invited via SAMHSA Feedback Forums. The blog post received 259 comments, and the forums had more than a thousand participants, nearly 500 ideas, and more than 1,200 comments on the ideas. Many of the comments received have been incorporated into the current working definition and principles.

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:  

  • Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live;
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family care-taking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society; and 

  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

The definition includes 10 “Guiding Principles of Recovery.” The first two are:

  • Recovery emerges from hope: The belief that recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future—that people can and do overcome the internal and external challenges, barriers, and obstacles that confront them.

  • Recovery is person-driven: Self-determination and self-direction are the foundations for recovery as individuals define their own life goals and design their unique path(s). 
  • Click here for more information about the new working recovery definition or the guiding principles of recovery. 
The ‘D’ in ‘PTSD’ Disturbs U.S. Army

The American Psychiatric Association, which is in the process of revising its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is considering removing the word “disorder” from “post-traumatic stress disorder” in response to a request from the Army, according to a Jan. 15 article in the Houston Chronicle by Lindsay Wise. The article is excerpted below.

“The president of the American Psychiatric Association says he is ‘very open’ to a request from the Army to come up with an alternative name for post-traumatic stress disorder so that troops returning from combat will feel less stigmatized and more encouraged to seek treatment.

“Dr. John Oldham, who serves as senior vice president and chief of staff at the Houston-based Menninger Clinic, said he is looking into the possibility of updating the association’s diagnostic manual with a new subcategory for PTSD. The subcategory could be ‘combat post-traumatic stress injury,’ or a similar term, he said. …

“The potential change was prompted by a request from Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, who wrote to Oldham last year, suggesting APA drop the world ‘disorder’ from PTSD.

“’Calling it a disorder contributes to the stigma and makes it so some folks—not all, but some folks—don’t get the help they need,’ Chiarelli said.

“The general doesn’t like to use the word disorder. ... ‘I don’t think that the post-traumatic stress that soldiers experience is a disorder. It’s not something that happens just to weak people or people that are somehow inclined to be affected by horrible things that they see or are required to do. I think it causes an actual injury to the brain and how the brain works.’”

Click here to read the entire article. Reaches Out

The recent pedophilia scandals at Penn State and in the Catholic Church have shed some light on the victimization of boys by adult men. But Ken Followell, president of MaleSurvivor: National Organization against Male Sexual Victimization, urges that the attention shift from the failures of individual perpetrators and the institutions that sheltered them to victims. 

“Shame, embarrassment, and a desire to move on cause many survivors of sexual assault to remain silent about their abuse,” Followell says. “Once survivors feel safe to speak openly of their abuse, we will all become safer since those who abuse will no longer be able to hide in plain sight as easily.”

In addition to the many services the organization offers to help prevent, heal, and eliminate sexual victimization of boys and men, the organization has encouraged the FBI to update the language it uses to define rape: “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

An item on’s website also sites a law dictionary’s definition of carnal knowledge that describes it as “the slightest penetration of the sexual organ of the female (vagina) by the sexual organ of the male (penis),” wording that “specifically excludes men as victims of rape,” the website observes.

The organization supports the new definition created by an FBI subcommittee: “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” asks FPI director Robert Mueller to accept the subcommittee’s recommendation, not only so that the reporting definition “more accurately reflects the nature of the crime,” but because, “It is important to acknowledge the reality that rape victimization and perpetration are not limited by gender.” 

The change may also encourage male victims to report sexual crimes committed against them, the website says. 

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