What Does the Term Psychiatric Rehabilitation Mean

In the helping professions, the term rehabilitate means to restore to an optimal state of constructive activity. Of course, what is "optimal" is relative to the individual. An individual's "optimal" level of constructive activity depends on several factors. How well a person functions depends on how severe the illness is at the time, the severity of the disability, the abilities he or she still possesses, the outside supports that are available, and what some theorists call the "stage of recovery." Stage of recovery refers to the individual's level of progress in his or her ability to cope with the disease and disability and his or her self-image as a functioning person. The concept of recovery will be dealt with in some depth in Chapter 4. Psychiatric rehabilitation refers to efforts to restore persons with psychiatric disabilities to optimal states of constructive activity. The degree of disability a person experiences is often variable. Some persons with severe and persistent mental illness may be disabled in many aspects of their lives. Other persons may be disabled in only one area, while otherwise being generally free of disability.

Numerous definitions of PsyR exist, reflecting a range of philosophical and technical differences among practitioners (Anthony, 1979; Anthony & Liberman, 1986; Carson, B. E., & Chambers, C. in Rutman 1994; Hughes, 1994; Rutman, 1994). Ruth Hughes (1994), former executive director of IAPSRS, provided an excellent definition that most PsyR practitioners can agree with:

The goal of psychiatric rehabilitation is to enable individuals to compensate for, or eliminate the functional deficits, interpersonal barriers and environmental barriers created by the disability, and to restore ability for independent living, socialization and effective life management. (p. 11)

In 1992 the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal asked its readers to submit definitions of PsyR. The following definition of PsyR, which received an honorable mention in the contest, captures both the humanity and the hope inherent in the rehabilitation process: "Psychosocial rehabilitation means that a person who before was afraid to go into a store to order an ice cream soda can now be an ice cream store manager" Martha Green (in Rutman, 1994).

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