What are Recovery Colleges

Recovery Colleges are emerging internationally as an approach to supporting recovery.


Implementing Recovery through Organisational Change (ImROC) has identified Recovery Colleges (sometimes called Discovery Centres, Wellbeing Colleges, Empowerment Colleges or Recovery Academies) exist or are developing in 22 countries: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Uganda, United Kingdom and United States of America.


So what makes Recovery Colleges so innovative, how are they different from other mental health services?


Recovery Colleges are an innovative approach in which lived experience informs learning, co-design provides collaboration, best practices in mental health and adult learning join forces, and the students, their families, the mental health sector and the community benefit from new opportunities and the realisation of potential.


The fundamental differences between Recovery Colleges and traditional services are that a therapeutic approach:

  • Focuses on problems, deficits and dysfunctions;

  • Strays beyond formal therapy sessions and becomes the over-arching paradigm;

  • Transforms all activities into therapies – work therapy, gardening therapy etc;

  • Problems are defined, and the type of therapy is chosen, by the professional ‘expert’;

  • Maintains the power imbalances and reinforces the belief that all expertise lies with the professionals.

Whilst an educational approach:

  • Helps people recognise and make use of their talents and resources;

  • Assists people in exploring their possibilities and developing their skills;

  • Supports people to achieve their goals and ambitions;

  • Staff become coaches who help people find their own solutions;

  • Students choose their own courses, work out ways of making sense of (and finding meaning in) what has happened and become experts in managing their own lives.

For more information read

Recovery Colleges by Rachel Perkins, Julie Repper, Miles Rinaldi and Helen Brown

A mental Health Recovery College for Canberra

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