Language is one of the ways to foster and enhance recovery-supporting environments. Language is constantly adapting and changing, with new words and descriptions coming to prominence over time. The way we talk and the words we use can have a powerful impact on how we interact with, and are perceived by, the world. There is also a skill in using language in
a way that fosters rather than inhibits recovery.
“Language shapes how we see and construct the world, it is important to consider how language can encourage recovery i.e. to use shorthands which foster rather than inhibit the recovery journey” (Slade M, 2010)
Recovery language is closely associated with our ability to share hope and identify strengths. The language we can use is also important in the development of empathic and mutual relationships. However, it is not fixed and the words we use change over time and between cultures. For example, you may have come across papers about peer support and recovery from other countries that use language that you feel less familiar or comfortable with.
In some settings, it is common to describe people who use mental health services as ‘consumers’. In the UK we talk about people as having mental health problems, in the United States it is common to talk about people with psychiatric disabilities.
Hodge and Townsend (authors of The Impact of Language and Environment on Recovery, 2008) are careful not to provide a list of things to say or not to say because it would quickly become dated and unhelpful, given the dynamic nature of language. The paper describes scenarios where language is unwittingly or otherwise used to retain control – for example, by using technical language when it’s not appropriate or by failing to clarify terms.