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Articles   |    
Picturing Recovery: A Photovoice Exploration of Recovery Dimensions Among People With Serious Mental Illness
Leopoldo J. Cabassa, Ph.D.; Andel Nicasio, M.S.Ed.; Rob Whitley, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201200503
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Dr. Cabassa is affiliated with the School of Social Work, Columbia University, 1255 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027 (e-mail: ljc2139@columbia.edu). Ms. Nicasio is with the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York City. Dr. Whitley is with the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association


Objectives  Recovery from mental disorders encompasses multiple interrelated dimensions. This study used photovoice to explore how individuals with serious mental illness and a history of substance abuse and homelessness envisioned their recovery. A dimensional recovery model was applied to examine how the interrelationships between recovery dimensions supported consumers’ recovery journeys.

Methods  Photovoice is a participatory research method that empowers people by giving them cameras to document their experiences and inform social action. Sixteen consumers recruited from two supported housing agencies participated in six weekly sessions to which they brought photographs that they took of persons and events in their lives that reflected recovery and wellness and discussed the meaning of the photographs in individual interviews and group sessions. The authors used pile-sorting, grounded theory, and a deductive template-analytic technique to analyze narrative and visual data.

Results  Spirituality, life achievements, and receiving and providing support were the most salient themes that emerged from the analysis and illustrate beneficial interrelationships between recovery dimensions. Participants discussed how they relied on their spirituality to support their sobriety and cope with addictions—aspects of clinical recovery. Educational and vocational achievements represented gains in functioning that contributed to increasing self-esteem and self-agency and reducing self-stigma. Social dimensions of recovery, such as receiving and giving support to loved ones, rippled through consumers’ lives reducing isolation and enhancing their self-worth.

Conclusions  The findings illustrate the value of participatory methods to understand what recovery signified to people with serious mental illness and how understanding the interrelationships between recovery dimensions can inform recovery-oriented services.

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Table 1Characteristics of 16 study participants with serious mental illness who enrolled in photovoice groups at two sites
Table Footer Note

a By patient self-report

Table Footer Note

b Includes attendance at a photo-elicitation or a group session

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Table 2Summary of findings from the analysis of photovoice narrative and visual data


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