Recovery to Practice: Training psychologists to address the changing behavioral health care environment

Recovery to Practice is a 5-year project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Recent policy changes due to mental health parity and health care reform will have a profound effect on psychologists. The promotion of recovery-oriented practice is one resulting trend which psychology must embrace to remain relevant in this new environment.

To address these changes, APA has received a subcontract for the Recovery to Practice (RTP) initiative. RTP is a 5-year project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to translate the vision of recovery into the concrete and everyday practice of behavioral health professionals. Begun in March 2010, APA’s RTP project is managed by the Minority Fellowship Program Office within the Public Interest Directorate.


As APA President Dr. Melba J.T. Vasquez commented in the March 2011 issue of the Monitor on Psychology, APA’s collaboration with SAMHSA on its RTP initiative — to train psychologists to provide recovery-focused behavioral health care — is an important part of APA’s ongoing commitment to improving the quality and availability of mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment.

APA is defining recovery as a journey of healing and transformation enabling persons with a mental health condition to live a meaningful life in the community of their choice and to achieve their full potential.  This definition has been adapted from the 2004 National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery (PDF, 163KB).

Our approach to this project began with the formation of the Recovery Advisory Committee (RAC) and the Committee for Assessment and Training in Recovery (CATR). The RAC serves as a steering committee for the RTP project and is integral to every major aspect of the project over the 5-year period. The CATR advises and facilitates the work of the RTP, providing valuable feedback on documents and other project activities. Both committees are composed of psychologists who are experts in the field, training directors and individuals with mental health conditions who are living meaningful lives in their communities.

APA, alongside the RAC and CATR, then performed a detailed assessment of the degree to which the notion of recovery has been embraced by the discipline of psychology. From the assessment, it was decided to target the initial curriculum toward training directors at APA-accredited doctoral programs. A situational analysis summarizing the results of the assessment was also developed. The analysis outlined historical and sociopolitical factors contributing to the small but growing number of psychologists who embrace the recovery paradigm and identified training directors in doctoral programs as the group most likely to impact future behavioral health practices of psychologists.

The RTP project team is currently developing this modularized recovery-oriented curriculum and will pilot the curriculum with training directors in the fall of 2012. Goals of the training curriculum are to: 

  1. Enhance the current psychology training system by emphasizing recovery outcomes as the basis for clinical services, 

  2. Enhance the recovery knowledge, skills, and attitudes of students, supervisors and administrators in psychology, and 

  3. Be consistent with and enhance the current accreditation standards.

In addition, the Minority Fellowship Program is planning mental health recovery focused activities at this year’s APA convention:

Title: “Will Psychology Be Relevant in the Era of Health Care Reform: The Need for Recovery-Oriented Care”
Sponsor: Division 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology)
Date/Time: August 4, 9:00-9:50 am
Location: Convention Center, Room 140 B
Chair: Larry Davidson, PhD
Participants: Mary A. Jansen, PhD, Arthur C. Evans, Jr., PhD, Bruce S. Zahn, EdD, ABPP, and Peter C. Ashenden

Title: “SAMHSA Priorities and Future Directions”
Sponsor: Division 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology)
Date/Time: August 5, 9:00-9:50 am
Location: Convention Center, Room 144 C
Chair: Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD
Participant: Pam Hyde, JD, SAMHSA Administrator

Title: “Treating People with Serious Mental Illness - Development of New Curriculum and Training Modules for Clinical Psychologists”
Sponsor: Division 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology)
Date/Time: August 4, 1:00-1:50 pm
Location: Convention Center, Room 209 A
Chair: Mary Jansen, PhD
Participants: Mary Jansen, PhD, Larry Davidson, PhD

For more information or to get involved, visit the Recovery to Practice webpage.