What should I expect from a good quality mental health service?

Mental Health Reform advocates for a recovery-oriented culture among mental health services.

What do we mean by recovery? Recovery is a very personal process. Ultimately, each individual will define what recovery means to them. Regardless of how somebody is feeling at any one particular time, the supports must be available to allow them to live their life to the fullest.
People who talk to Mental Health Reform repeatedly express the need for a more humane service that listens to the service user. This is not a costly transformation. More than anything it demands a change in the attitudes and behaviours of everyone involved in providing support for the person in mental distress, whether it is local primary care staff, mental health service staff, family carers or the wider community.

A recovery-oriented service should keep the individual at the heart of decisions made about their mental health, and should recognise and acknowledge that every individual can achieve recovery, flourish, and fulfil their potential with the right support. One way services can support recovery is by working with the individual and, where appropriate, their family, to develop an Individual Care Plan.

In A Vision for Change, the Government mental health policy, the recovery approach is explained as one which helps people to:
“understand and cope with their mental health difficulties, build on their inherent strengths and resourcefulness, establish supportive networks, and pursue dreams and goals that are important to them”.

Mental Health Reform has summarised the main elements of a recovery-oriented approach: Hope, Listening, Partnership, Choice and Social Inclusion.


The hopeful attitude of a mental health worker or family member can make a big difference in helping someone to recover from poor mental health. You should expect staff to be encouraging about your future.


People living with a mental health condition come to understand their condition over time, and know what works best for them. They are experts by experience. You should expect to have your preferences, knowledge and aspirations heard and respected.


Good quality mental health staff work in partnership with you as a service user or family member. You should expect to play an active role in planning your own recovery. If appropriate, family members should be included.


People want and need choice in terms of treatment, and there must be a variety of options available that are more than simply medication, including counselling and psychotherapy, occupational therapy and home-based treatment, among others.

Social Inclusion

Mental health services have an important role to play in supporting people with a mental health difficulty to participate in their local community, have social relationships and engage in meaningful activities including education and employment. You should expect support from your mental health team to access welfare benefits, housing, education and employment.

Mental Health Reform has published a Recovery briefing paper and Recovery information leaflet, both available online.