SAMHSA’s Definition of Recovery

Recovery has been identified as a primary goal for behavioral health care. In August 2010, leaders in the behavioral health field, consisting of people in recovery from mental health and substance use problems and SAMHSA, met to explore the development of a common, unified working definition of recovery. Prior to this, SAMHSA had separate definitions for recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders. These different definitions, along with other government agency definitions, complicate the discussion as we work to expand health insurance coverage for treatment and recovery support services.

Building on these efforts and in consultation with many stakeholders, SAMHSA has developed a working definition and set of principles for recovery. A standard unified working definition will help advance recovery opportunities for all Americans, and help to clarify these concepts for peers, families, funders, providers, and others.


The working definition of recovery from mental disorders and/or substance use disorders

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

Health – Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms—for example, abstaining from the use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications if one has an addiction problem—and for everyone in recovery, making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellbeing.

Home – A stable and safe place to live

Purpose – Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society

Community – Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope


The information above is courtesy of