Background: Personal recovery is an individualized process through which people develop a positive identity and live a meaningful life, with symptoms of mental illness. Few studies have explored the role of recreation therapy in the recovery process from the perspectives of individuals with lived experience of mental illness.

Objectives: To understand how community-based recreation therapy can support mental health recovery, from the perspectives of people diagnosed with mental illness, and to guide the development, delivery and evaluation of recovery-oriented mental health services.

Methods: Guided by the principles of participatory action research (PAR) and photovoice, six participant researchers (PRs) generated arts-based media and narrative data in response to the research question: How can therapeutic recreation, in a community mental health center, support the recovery of individuals diagnosed with mental illness? The research group analyzed the qualitative data through a participatory data analysis process.

Results: The PRs produced and analyzed 24 pieces of arts-based media and 5 hours of transcribed narrative data describing their artworks' relationship to therapeutic recreation and recovery. The PRs identified seven salient themes through the participatory data analysis process: providing a safe place, promoting hope, finding balance, developing self-wisdom, increasing enjoyment, building confidence, and encouraging self-determination.

Conclusions: Service recipients' unique preferences and perspectives must be integral to service development to deliver therapeutic recreation interventions that are truly recovery-oriented. The research findings will be used to guide the delivery of innovative, collaborative, person-centered programming in community-based mental health settings.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 161-170
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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