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When it comes to addiction recovery, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are a number of individual factors that determine the right type of addiction treatment and risks when a person leaves treatment. This means it can be difficult to determine successful recovery outcomes. However, there is a formula that researchers say greatly influence the success of a person’s recovery: it’s called recovery capital.
In their 1999 book Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction Without Treatment, sociologists Robert Granfield and William Cloud introduced the concept of “recovery capital.” Granfield and Cloud argue that what individuals bring to the table heavily influences someone’s ability to initiate and sustain recovery from substance use disorder. Put simply: it’s the sum total of a person’s “internal and external assets” that determine how far they will ultimately go in recovery.
Recovery capital or “recovery capacity,” as researcher William White refers to it, doesn’t simply vary from person to person. In fact, the ability to navigate addiction recovery can be hugely different for the same person at various points in their life. According to White, recovery capital is directly connected to:
“natural recovery, solution-focused therapy, strengths-based case management, recovery management, resilience and protective factors, and the ideas of hardiness, wellness, and global health.”
With all of these dimensions at play, recovery capacity becomes as complex as it is unpredictable. In other words, the exact range of resources someone needs in recovery depends on how severe their substance abuse problem already is, in addition to the range of resources they currently have at their fingertips. If someone is heavily addicted to a given substance but has scant few recovery resources available to them, they are more likely to benefit from professional treatment as well as post-treatment support programs and services. White, however, believes the inverse is true, too: if that same person has a high degree of recovery capital, they may require a smaller number of resources to achieve long-term recovery.
White identified four different categories of recovery capital, including personal, family/social, community and cultural:
White contends that when front-line addiction professionals use recovery capital to specifically shape their strategies and approaches, more people will find and achieve long-term recovery:
In essence: recovery capital helps individuals maintain long-term recovery by bolstering the number of available resources they have, as well as expanding the support system around them. With little or no recovery capital, people invariably find it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve sobriety. By increasing someone’s recovery capital, however, there’s no telling just how far they’ll go on their recovery journey.
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