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Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2013 Mar;36(1):35-41. doi: 10.1037/h0094745.

Teaching recovery to medical students.

Author information

  • 1Cluain Mhuire Community Mental Health Service, Dublin, Ireland. larkin.feeney@sjog.ie



Community mental health services are evolving toward more holistic, patient-centered, recovery-based practices. This change necessitates an attitudinal shift from mental health workers, and training in recovery principles is helpful in achieving this change. Medical students often have narrow, doctor-centered concepts of mental health care. Traditional clinical placements in psychiatry do little to address this. We evaluated a recovery-focused teaching program for medical students in psychiatry.


Medical students' knowledge of recovery from mental illness was assessed before and after either a 6-week traditional or recovery-focused clinical placement in psychiatry, using the Recovery Knowledge Inventory. A validated questionnaire was used to assess attitudes toward mental illness before and after the placements. Focus groups were conducted before and after the recovery teaching.


One hundred nineteen medical students participated; 23 experienced the recovery teaching program while 96 had a traditional placement (23 in the same center as the recovery teaching program and 73 in other centers). There were no significant differences between groups at baseline. After recovery teaching, medical students significantly increased their recovery knowledge and had more positive attitudes toward mental illness and psychiatry when compared with those who had a traditional placement. The focus groups revealed greater optimism and more holistic concepts of recovery from mental illness.


The recovery teaching program was associated with increased knowledge of recovery principles and more positive attitudes toward mental illness. Psychiatric clinical placements for medical students should include an explicit recovery focus.

PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved

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