A Recovery Perspective on Wellness: Connection, Awareness, Congruence

  • Cory R. CummingsEmail author
  • Kia J. Bentley
Original Article


Wellness is an important construct and is foundational in efforts to improve health, wellbeing, and quality of life. This study involves a qualitative inquiry into the meaning of wellness for a group of people who experience persistent challenges with mental health and who are connected with the Mental Health Recovery Movement. Eleven participants were interviewed, sharing their experiences of how wellness was present in their lives, what things threaten and support it, and what it takes to maintain it. Results depict wellness as a dynamic and complex concept represented in themes of connection, awareness, and congruence. Participants’ experiences with recovery appear highly reflected in these results and the relationship between these two concepts are considered. Findings provide preliminary insights guiding healthcare practitioners towards a more complete and holistic definition of wellness, a potentially valuable tool in supporting the recovery and wellbeing of people with serious and persistent mental health challenges.


Wellness Mental health recovery Health promotion Serious mental illness Lived experience Qualitative inquiry Congruence 


  1. 1.
    Anthony WA, Ashcraft L. The recovery movement. In: Levin BL, Hennessy KD, Petrila J, editors. Mental health services: a public health perspective. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2010. p. 465–79.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Baharudin DF, Mahmud Z, Amat S. Wellness from the perspective of Malay Muslim adults in Malaysia. Al-‘Abqari J. 2015;6:79–100.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boruchovitch E, Mednick BR. The meaning of health and illness: some considerations for health psychology. Psico-USF. 2002;7(2):175–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cabassa LJ, Ezell JM, Lewis-Fernández R. Lifestyle interventions for adults with serious mental illness: a systematic literature review. Psychiatr Serv. 2010;61(8):774–82.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cabassa LJ, Nicasio A, Whitley R. Picturing recovery: a photovoice exploration of recovery dimensions among people with serious mental illness. Psychiatr Serv. 2013;64(9):837–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cabassa LJ, Parcesepe A, Nicasio A, Baxter E, Tsemberis S, Lewis-Fernández R. Health and wellness photovoice project: engaging consumers with serious mental illness in health care interventions. Qual Health Res. 2013;23(5):618–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Carpenter J. Mental health recovery paradigm: implications for social work. Health Soc Work. 2002;27(2):86–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Codjoe L, Byrne M, Lister M, McGuire P, Valmaggia L. Exploring perceptions of “wellness” in black ethnic minority individuals at risk of developing psychosis. Behav Cognit Psychother. 2013;41(2):144–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cook JA, Copeland ME, Jonikas JA, Hamilton MM, Razzano LA, Grey DD, Floyd CB, Hudson WB, Macfarlane RT, Carter TM, Boyd S. Results of a randomized controlled trial of mental illness self-management using wellness recovery action planning. Schizophr Bull. 2011;38(4):881–91.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Corrigan PW. Principles and practice of psychiatric rehabilitation: an empirical approach. 2nd ed. NY: The Guilford Press; 2014.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Creswell JW. Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among five approaches. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage; 2013.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Davidson L. The recovery movement: implications for mental health care and enabling people to participate fully in life. Health Aff. 2016;35(6):1091–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    DeHaan CR, Hirai T, Ryan RM. Nussbaum’s capabilities and self-determination theory’s basic psychological needs: relating some fundamentals of human wellness. J Happiness Stud. 2016;17(5):2037–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Druss BG, Zhao L, von Esenwein SA, Bona JR, Fricks L, Jenkins-Tucker S, et al. The Health and Recovery Peer (HARP) program: a peer-led intervention to improve medical selfmanagement for persons with serious mental illness. Schizophr Res. 2010;118(1):264–270.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hamera EK, Pallikkathayil L, Bauer S, Burton MR. Descriptions of wellness by individuals with schizophrenia. West J Nurs Res. 1994;16(3):288–300.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hattie JA, Myers JE, Sweeney TJ. A factor structure of wellness: theory, assessment, analysis, and practice. J Couns Dev. 2004;82(3):354–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hess JZ, Lacasse JR, Harmon J, Williams D, Vierling-Claassen N. “Is there any getting better from this, or not?” Examining the meaning and possibility of recovery from mental disorder. Child Youth Serv. 2014;35:116–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kerr DJR, Crowe TP, Oades LG. The reconstruction of narrative identity during mental health recovery: a complex adaptive systems perspective. Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2013;36(2):108–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kleinman A. Patients and healers in the context of culture. Berkley, CA: University of California Press; 1980.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kleinman A. Local worlds of suffering: an interpersonal focus for ethnographies of illness experience. Qual Health Res. 1992;2(2):127–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lysaker PH, Roe D, Buck KD. Recovery and wellness amidst schizophrenia: definitions, evidence, and the implications for clinical practice. J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2010;16(1):36–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mayol MH, Scott BM, Schreiber JB. Validation and use of the multidimensional wellness inventory in collegiate student-athletes and first-generation students. Am J Health Educ. 2017;48(5):338–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    McMahon AT, Williams P, Tapsell L. Reviewing the meanings of wellness and well-being and their implications for food choice. Perspect Public Health. 2010;130(6):282–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Myers JE, Sweeney TJ. Wellness counseling: the evidence base for practice. J Couns Dev. 2008;86(4):482–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Myers JE, Sweeney TJ, Witmer JM. The wheel of wellness counseling for wellness: a holistic model for treatment planning. J Couns Dev. 2000;78(3):251–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Myers NAL, Smith K, Pope A, Alolayan Y, Broussard B, Haynes N, Compton MT. A mixed-methods study of the recovery concept, “a meaningful day”, in community mental health services for individuals with serious mental illness. Community Ment Health J. 2016;52:747–56.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Nelson A, Shockley C. Wellness coaching: frontline worker training in mental health. J Ment Health Train Educ Pract. 2013;8(1):45–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nosek MA, Hughes RB, Howland CA, Young ME, Mullen PD, Shelton ML. The meaning of health for women with physical disabilities: a qualitative analysis. Fam Community Health. 2004;27(1):6–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nowak I, Waaszkiewicz J, Świtaj P, Sokół-Szawłowska M, Anczewska M. A qualitative study of the subjective appraisal of recovery among people with lived experience of schizophrenia in Poland. Psychiatr Q. 2017;88:435–46.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Nussbaum MC. Creating capabilities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Prilleltensky I. Wellness as fairness. Am J Community Psychol. 2012;49(1–2):1–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Roberts SH, Bailey JE. Incentives and barriers to lifestyle interventions for people with severe mental illness: a narrative synthesis of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods studies. J Adv Nurs. 2011;67(4):690–708.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Roscoe LJ. Wellness: a review of theory and measurement for counselors. J Couns Dev. 2009;87(2):216–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Samaco-Zamora MCF, Fernandez KTG. A grounded theory of Filipino wellness (Kaginhawaan). Psychol Stud. 2016;61(4):279–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Savolaine J, Granello PF. The function of meaning and purpose for individual wellness. J Humanist Couns. 2002;41(2):178–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Shapiro J. Illness narratives: reliability, authenticity and the empathic witness. Med Humanit. 2011;37(2):68–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Slade M. Mental illness and well-being: the central importance of positive psychology and recovery approaches. BMC Health Serv Res. 2010;10(1):26.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Slade M, Amering M, Farkas M, Hamilton B, O’Hagan M, Panther G, Perkins R, Shepherd G, Tse S, Whitley R. Uses and abuses of recovery: implementing recovery-oriented practices in mental health systems. World Psychiatry. 2014;13(1):12–20.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Strine TW, Chapman DP, Balluz LS, Moriarty DG, Mokdad AH. The associations between life satisfaction and health-related quality of life, chronic illness, and health behaviors among U.S. community-dwelling adults. J Community Health. 2008;33(1):40–50. Scholar
  40. 40.
    Thorne S. Data analysis in qualitative research. Evid-Based Nurs. 2000;3(3):68–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Tighe CA. ‘Working at disability’: a qualitative study of the meaning of health and disability for women with physical impairments. Disabil Soc. 2001;16(4):511–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Tondora J, Miller R, Slade M, Davidson L. Partnering for recovery in mental health: a practical guide to person-centered planning. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell; 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). National consensus statement on mental health recovery. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2006. Retrived 24 Oct 2017
  44. 44.
    U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The eight dimensions of wellness. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2016. Retrieved from
  45. 45.
    Varni JW, Limbers CA, Burwinkle TM. Impaired health-related quality of life in children and adolescents with chronic conditions: a comparative analysis of 10 disease clusters and 33 disease categories/severities utilizing the PedsQL™ 4.0 Generic Core Scales. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2007;5(1):43.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Wolf CP, Thompson IA, Smith-Adcock S. Wellness in counselor preparation: promoting individual well-being. J Individ. Psychol. 2012;68(2):164–181.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature India Private Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkMonmouth UniversityWest Long BranchUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

Personalised recommendations