International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation
and Lifelong Learning: Interrelated
Christopher A. Griffiths (BSc).
Project Researcher, Department of Mental Health
Dr Peter Ryan (DProf, MSc).
Mental Health, Department of Mental Health
CA & Ryan P.
and Lifelong Learning: Interrelated Processes
Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Vol 13(1). 51-56
address: Christopher A.
Griffiths, Department of Mental Health, Middlesex University, F Block,
Campus, London, N19 5NF
The purpose of this paper is to
explore the links between the process of recovery and the process of
learning, see how they are interrelated and to see what mental health
can learn from any emergent connections to bring benefits to those who
experience mental disorder.
A review of literature on recovery
and lifelong learning was conducted to determine similarities in the
definitions, processes and outcomes of engagement in recovery and
It was found that recovery and
learning are indivisible, inter-twined processes and that lifelong
an essential part of mental disorder recovery.
The findings indicate that greater
access to and provision of lifelong learning opportunities should be
for those who experience mental disorder to help facilitate their
Key words: recovery, lifelong
This paper will start by providing brief
definition and background on the theoretical constructs of recovery and
lifelong learning, and the processes that are involved in each. It will
describe how these twin concepts and associated processes are closely
interrelated and how recovery can be viewed as a type of lifelong
focus will then move on to describe how lifelong learning can be used
the process of recovery. What we are seeking to elucidate here is an
which locates the experience of and recovery from mental disorder as
essentially part of a process of adult lifelong learning. This approach
out of the belief that both recovery and lifelong learning are
which all adults are involved, whether they have mental disorder or
this sense we put forward the proposal that lifelong learning and
intertwined as human experiences, adaptive systems, and goals. By
the importance and centrality of lifelong learning in recovery it is
policy makers, educators and mental health services will increase the
and access to lifelong learning for individuals experiencing mental
This paper has emerged out of the work of
the Empowerment of Mental Illness Service Users: Lifelong Learning and
(EMILIA) project. EMILIA is a European Union Framework Six research
provided with €3.4 million funding for 54 months in the thematic area
lifelong learning. At the European policy level, the project seeks
in three policy areas: lifelong learning, social inclusion, and
the practice level, the eight demonstration sites (Athens, Barcelona,
Bodo, London, Paris, Sarajevo,
Stroestrum, and Warsaw) are seeking to develop and evaluate a variety of ways
practical pathways can be found to facilitate the social inclusion and
of mental health service users through a process of lifelong learning.
led us to extensive dialogue with mental health service users
through this to seriously consider ways of approaching recovery issues
are non-stigmatising and which go beyond medical or, for that matter,
models of mental disorder.
can be a voyage of self-discovery and personal growth: experiences of
can provide opportunities for change, reflection and discovery – of new
interests and skills. According to Wallcraft (2005) recovery can
further step to developing coping strategies – a move on from mere
life management to engaging in the lifelong learning necessary to
improved and personally defined quality of life. Rethink (2004) offers
following overview statement:
“Recovery can be defined as a personal
process of tackling the adverse impacts of experiencing mental health
despite their continuing or long-term presence.
It involves personal development and change, including
are problems to face, a sense of involvement and control over one's
cultivation of hope and using the support from others, including direct
collaboration in joint problem-solving between people using services,
and professionals. Recovery starts with
the individual and works from the inside out. For this reason it is
personalised and challenges traditional service approaches.”
Within the mental health field, over the
last fifteen years or so, the recovery model has emerged as an
overarching set of statements, policies and goals (e.g., NIMHE, 2005).
the 1990s many mental health programmes have identified themselves as
recovery-oriented. Community mental health systems have been
emphasising providing services and using interventions that support
health service users recovering from severe mental disorder.
Lifelong learning has been driven by the
belief that everyone should have equal and open access to high quality
opportunities. It acknowledges that learning is not just confined to
classroom, and to the delivery and achievement of academic awards, but
taught through many different means. Lifelong learning can be broadly
as learning that is pursued throughout life: learning that is flexible,
and continues in many different contexts and settings. Delors (1996)
the four ‘pillars’ of lifelong learning:
Learning to know – learning how to learn
rather than specific sets of knowledge
Learning to do – developing the capability
to adapt and respond creatively to new challenges and new demands
Learning to live together and with others –
peacefully resolving conflict, discovering other people and their
fostering community capability
Learning to be – learning contributing to a
person’s complete development, of mind and body, aesthetic and cultural
appreciation, and spirituality
The European Commission (COM 2001) stated
that lifelong learning had four broad and mutually supportive
personal fulfilment, active citizenship; social inclusion, and
employability/adaptability. In this context lifelong learning was
defined as “a
continuously supportive process which stimulates and empowers
acquire all the knowledge, values, skills and understanding they will
throughout their lifetime and to employ them with confidence,
enjoyment in all roles, and circumstances… within a personal, civic
and\or employment-related perspective... encompassing the whole
formal, non-formal to informal learning” (COM, 2002). Somewhat more
Kogan (2000, p. 341) defined lifelong learning as “learning that
students (learners, individuals) to encounter with competence and
the full range of working, learning and life experiences.”
Lifelong learning is therefore about
gaining abilities knowledge and qualifications throughout life. It
individual to adapt and actively participate in all spheres of social
economic life and provides an individual with more control over his or
present and future (Knowles, 1984). Lifelong learning policy has a formal role in
national education policies in many countries, with various governments
throughout the world investing in and developing strategies to
lifelong policies amongst its citizens. Primarily this has been to
competitive advantage in the worldwide market place but there has also
desire to improve quality of life and well-being for individual
as Lifelong Learning
It is arguable that de-institutionalization
and the emergence of the recovery model have generated a greater need
lifelong learning in mental health service users. After all, very
learning is required for an institutionalised life: there is little
environmental change and the patient has little control over their
contrast, life in the community involves experiencing continual change
requires mental health service users to have a greater degree of
their lives; therefore, more extensive lifelong learning is required.
paper discussing mental health recovery Anthony (1993, p. 21) stated
person with severe mental illness can grow beyond the limits imposed by
her illness.” It may be that this potential to grow beyond any limits
partially determined by access to and the ability to acquire and apply
Stocks (1995) and Anthony (1993) both
provided definitions of recovery with similarities to lifelong learning
definitions. Stocks stated that “recovery is an ongoing process of
discovery, and change” (p. 89) and Anthony stated that “recovery is a
deeply personal, individual effort that leads to growth, discovery and
change of attitudes, values, goals and perhaps roles” (p. 14). Green
293) noted that “core recovery processes include development learning
healing, and their primary behavioural manifestation, adaptation.” If,
suggests, developmental learning is a core part of the recovery
the focus of enabling recovery changes from solely identifying
one that involves providing support in acquiring learning to aid
the necessary accompanying developmental processes.
can in this sense be seen as a ‘special case’ of lifelong learning. As stress increases and
life-change events accumulate, the motivation to cope with change
engagement in a learning experience may increase. Mental disorder often
to massive life-change events such as loss of employment, involuntary
into acute hospital wards, and/or a change in social relationships.
can produce the need for, and motivation to seek out, new learning to
to cope. Life
for everyone is full of challenges and setbacks, both small and large,
continued existence and success in this world, at a biological,
and social level is about recovering from and overcoming these
setbacks. Our capability to engage in lifelong learning both enables
recovery and is added to through our experience of recovery.
events such as involuntary hospital admission negatively affect many
life, and many of those who experience mental disorder hope for a
recovery of aspects of the life that they had before. Desire for a
self confidence, self esteem, a positive hope for the future, etc.,
provide an individual with the drive to seek to recover, to learn how
to challenges they face and to find new ways of ‘being in the world’.
experience of mental disorder can and usually does profoundly affect
individual’s sense of self and personal identity. In times of crisis
the self can
cease to be capable of independent functioning and retreats to being an
institutionally or service defined ‘product or entity’. The process of
can put into motion a process of lifelong learning in which the self is
reclaimed by the individual. Painful episodes and experiences of mental
disorder form a crucible in an individual’s story in which a new sense
is formed which is not institutionally or externally defined.
Recovery from mental disorder involves many
different factors and is much more than recovery from the disorder
“People with mental illness may have to recover from the stigma they
incorporated into their very being; from the iatrogenic effects of
settings; from lack of recent opportunities for self-determination;
negative side effects of unemployment; and from crushed dreams”
p. 19). A great deal of new learning is required for different aspects
individual’s recovery in a complex and often drawn-out process. Lifelong learning
and recovery are both part of the process of forging a meaningful,
of the disparate and disjointed experiences that can be created through
disorder. This process may lead to an increase in what Antonovsky
(1979, p. 123)
has termed a ‘sense of coherence’: an increase in the “extent to which
a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that one’s
and external environments are predictable and that there is a high
that things will work out as well as can be reasonably expected.”
Formal Lifelong Learning as an Aid to Recovery
Research into specific examples of formal
learning has found that they can bring benefits on a wide variety of
for example, improvements in measures of coping skills, stress
setting, quality of life, and well being (Griffiths,
All of these potential benefits of lifelong learning can facilitate and
part of the process of recovery in/from mental disorder. Formal
learning programmes can also empower those with mental disorder to make
informed choices and decisions about their own needs and wishes and,
this, their feeling of control over their lives can steadily grow
2004). This empowerment can allow those with mental disorder to
more with their healthcare providers in their own treatment,
recovery (Landsverk & Kane, 1998).
Hammond (2004, p.551) found that participation in formal
positive effects upon “well-being, protection and recovery from mental
difficulties, and the capacity to cope with potentially stress-inducing
circumstances including the onset and progression of chronic illness
Hammond (2004, p. 551) also found that learning, through a
process that is
“quintessential to learning”, can have positive impact “upon
qualities; self-esteem, self-efficacy, a sense of purpose and hope,
competences, and social integration.” Adding to these findings
Hammond (2004, p. 199), who conducted research using the National Child
Development Study, found that “participation in adult learning is a
important element in positive cycles of [personal and social]
progression”. Furthermore, the results of Preston & Hammond’s
211) study into the wider benefits of further education showed that
“self-esteem, self-efficacy, and the development of social networks are
important benefits of FE [further education] and that purposive social
interaction is a major factor in producing social benefits.” All of
social and individual factors that are products of lifelong learning
crucial factors in the generation of recovery (Repper & Perkins,
the lifelong learning/recovery process a positive cycle can be created
formal learning participation producing the beneficial effects stated,
can then lead to recovery gains, and these recovery gains can then lead
further participation in formal learning.
Landsverk & Kane (1998, p. 420) found
that there is an “increasing body of evidence of research showing
be an effective component in a comprehensive treatment approach to
mental illness.” Using learning to help enable recovery can redefine an
individual’s relationship with learning so that they see it as a
and as an important part of their lives (Jackson,
can be considered to be a meaningful activity that will “help ignite
that fuel recovery processes and that provide opportunities for
necessary competencies” (Green, 2004, p. 302). Learning and treatment
involved in a reciprocal process to enable recovery. To recover an
may require medication to reduce symptom levels to allow new adaptive
to be acquired, and newly acquired learning may result in improved
regime adherence and hence recovery gains (Kopelowicz & Liberman,
Summary and Conclusions
This paper makes a case for lifelong
learning and recovery being indivisible, inter-twined processes. Our
that through lifelong learning mental health service users can become
empowered, have a higher degree of social inclusion, develop better
skills, have higher levels of meaningfulness, enjoy life more, have
self-esteem and well being, achieve personal goals, develop new and
existing supportive relationships, have greater access to work
and have a greater opportunity to contribute to society.
Policy makers in many parts of the world
are now using formal learning to promote mental disorder recovery and
trying to increase the inclusion of those with mental disorder in state
formal lifelong learning provision. In addition, mental health services
increasingly offering learning programmes specifically targeted at
recovery of those with mental disorder. In summary, the aims of these
lifelong learning provisions are two fold: to increase the numbers of
with mental disorder who take part in formal lifelong learning and for
formal lifelong learning to aid recovery.
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