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Implementing Recovery-based Care: Tangible Guidance for SMHAs - page 4 / 44

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NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

Personally speaking, I have heard people express their goals with phrases such as decent housing, meaningful work, and/or having friends, but I have never heard people mention that their goal was “continuity of care.” If we are serious about the vision of recovery, then the mental health system of the last century—which for the most part was a system characterized by low expectations, control, and no consumer-based vision—must disappear. Massive system changes must occur if the vision of recovery is to become a reality for an ever-increasing number of people with severe mental illnesses. For this very different vision to become reality, brilliant leadership is required.

Over the past decade I have interviewed leaders in the mental health system about the dimensions of leadership. Their responses can be organized around eight fundamental principles (see Table below). Leaders who are guided by these principles can help make the recovery vision come alive. Conversely, leaders not oriented to these principles can become a major obstacle to recovery. I will elaborate on several of these principles with respect to leadership around recovery.

The essence of leadership is to motivate one’s employees to action around a shared vision, in this instance the vision of recovery. A shared organizational vision is like an organizational magnet—it attracts to it only people with special characteristics. The organization can be energized and mobilized by a shared vision of what is possible. The vision of recovery, as opposed to previous non-consumer focused visions, can provide a sense of purpose and meaning to people who work in the mental health system.

The recovery vision paints a credible picture or image of the future. The leader uses it to pull and push the system toward the future. The leader must communicate this vision repeatedly, through the use of stories, metaphors, anecdotes, and quotations. The vision of recovery allows the leader to tell an inspiring story, rather than the previous broken stories of maintenance and deterioration.

In addition, the story of recovery must appeal to people’s reason and emotion. The research periodically summarized by Harding (1994, in press) and the anecdotes of people recovering from severe mental illnesses (e.g., Spaniol & Koehler, 1994) are some of the tools used by leaders to make the recovery story both factual and inspirational.

It is up to the statewide leadership to create a system-wide culture that identifies and tries to operate consistent with key recovery values. Values are the organizational Velcro that binds vision to operations. Leaders must be clear about the values that underlie recovery, and that each major decision they make is guided by those values. Prior to the recovery vision, statewide operations were not typically evaluated by how they affected consensually defined values. Undergirding the vision of recovery are several key values around which consensus has emerged (Farkas, Gagne, Anthony, & Chamberlin, in press).  Four of these values are self-determination/choice, full partnership, people first, and growth potential.

When the leaders are making decisions around various system functions (e.g., policy, budgeting, program regulations and funding, human resource development, evaluation strategies) they should consider how each decision is either consistent with

NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

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