Recovery language is about how we use language in a way that promotes recovery and is based on ordinary language that is descriptive and makes sense to everyone.
This exercise is divided into two parts. The first part focusses on deficit and negative language. The second part moves into exploring how using language differently can promote hope and see the strengths and potential in people.
Part One: Deficit and negative language
The following words have been used to describe someone. Read over the list of words, and think of the immediate impression you get of the person being described. Don’t spend too long thinking about the words.
- Cutter (self-harm)
- Low functioning
- Revolving door
You may find that you have heard these words used in connection with other people, or they may be words you or others have used to describe yourself.
Words and how we use language are critically important in the mental health field where discrimination, disempowerment and loss of self-esteem can cause people to battle with self-stigma.
Part two: Recovery Language
Consider these questions.
- What does recovery language mean to you?
- Why is it important to use recovery language?
Make some quick notes – identify key elements of recovery language with a focus on hope, strengths and empowerment. We have prepared this list:
• Assists a person’s recovery
• Promotes hope
• Treats people as individuals
• Treats people as equals/ addresses power imbalance
• Provides a positive sense of self/identity
• It can be empowering
• Promotes positive feelings about oneself and future
• Reduces labelling and stigma and categorising
• Allows individuals to use their own words to share their own experiences
• It can reduce feelings of worthlessness and assist building self confidence
• Promotes choice and self-advocacy
• Promotes a person’s strengths and skill
Thinking about how peer supporters could use language differently, think about how the original statements might impact on hope, mutuality and empowerment. Develop alternative statements that convey a similar meaning, but use recovery focused language.
Here are some examples: