When I attended the American Psychological Association (APA) Convention last week, I was surprised and pleased to see two recovery-oriented presentations offered the first morning of the conference: Will Psychology Be Relevant in the Era of Health Care Reform? The Need for Recovery-Oriented Care, and Why Psychologists Should Care About Recovery-Oriented Peer Support Services-Roles and Opportunities. Both sessions were excellent and had a consumer/peer specialist and psychologists presenting together. At one session, I was given a flyer that highlighted three sessions about recovery.

It has been my experience that psychologists and students in psychology doctoral programs are not well-acquainted with the recovery movement, and words like “consumer” and “peer specialist” are often not familiar, so I was surprised to see these sessions at the convention. My second surprise came in researching APA’s involvement with the recovery movement upon returning home.

It turns out, APA is involved in a five-year Recovery to Practice (RTP) initiative promoting mental health recovery principles and practices for psychologists, which is steered by its Recovery Advisory Committee and funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In 2009 the APA Council of Representatives, APA’s highest governing body, passed a Resolution on APA Endorsement of the Concept of Recovery for People with Serious Mental Illness that is now part of APA policy. The resolution states, among other things, that the APA endorses the concept of recovery as it applies to serious mental illness; that, consistent with the principles of recovery, these efforts should involve consumer input and other forms of active collaboration with consumers; and that psychologists should be encouraged to continue to promote the development, implementation, and rigorous evaluation of recovery-oriented services.

While the recovery message may be slow in trickling down to many psychologists and training programs, I am heartened to know that APA as an organization has fully embraced the movement and is working to integrate recovery models into the training of psychologists.

While this did not appear to be part of the 2009 resolution, a presenter at one session I attended recommended that recovery be a core competency for doctoral psychology programs, meaning that someday it might be part of what is looked for in the accreditation process. If this were to happen, it would dramatically change the way we train psychologists about mental health. I encourage my fellow psychologists and other mental health care professionals to visit the APA Commitment to Mental Health Recovery Webpage. Be sure to check out the RTP Resource Center. Great stuff!