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The power of purpose in recovery



February 20, 2022

As I have treated mental health conditions for over a decade, many patients and their families come to me in immense emotional and sometimes physical pain. They feel anxious or depressed and a result, they can’t sleep, or they can’t eat, or they just have trouble functioning day-to-day.  Mental health symptoms cannot only effect how we feel, but how we function as well.  These feelings can negatively impact our ability to relate to friends, families and siblings, as well as our ability to keep up with the daily responsibilities of school, work and raising a family.

As a practitioner, I consider it an honor and a privilege when people allow me to get a glimpse into their lives; sharing how they feel and how they are functioning.  While my aim is certainly treat their symptoms, my ultimate goal is getting them to recovery. Not just to simply feel better, but to experience the process of improvement and recovery.

So, what does it mean to experience recovery?
Here’s the interesting thing—not many people talk about recovery in the mental health field,  but recovery is possible¹. There are four major areas to consider when aiming for recovery:

  • Health - our ability to make healthy choices effecting our physical and emotional well-being.
  • Home - our ability to have a stable and safe place to live.
  • Community - our ability to build relationships, make connections and find people who will support us in times of need.
  • Purpose - a crucial part of recovery, our ability to engage in daily activities that are meaningful, leading to a sense of self and independence.

Finding purpose
Living with a sense of purpose is universal and deeply human for all of us. Some say it’s what makes each one of us special, individual, and unique as a person. Purpose not only relates to us universally, but it plays an especially important role in the pursuit of recovery for individuals with chronic mental illness and those with even mild mental health symptoms.  And, finding one’s purpose in life is proven to be a preventative mental health measure as well².

However, finding our purpose as individuals is not always easy—it’s a highly personal quest.  Consider these 5 questions when seeking purpose or helping your teen or child find purpose:

  1. What do you love doing so much that you would do it, even if it was hard to do?
  2. What did you love to do as a child (or when you were younger)?
  3. What activity or hobby makes you forget to eat?  When you are so immersed in something, time passes without realizing it? What gives you the sensation of “flow?”
  4. How are you going to save the world?
  5. If you didn’t have your day-to-day obligations (chores, school, work, etc.), how would you fill your time?  What would you love to do right now?

The power of purpose
Finding purpose is a powerful thing.  When treating individuals with Schizophrenia, giving them a job to do, a purpose, led to the best outcomes. More than medication, it was this sense of purpose that gave my patients the focus needed to help overcome the mental fragmentation that is often experienced with Schizophrenia. For them, purpose was powerful.  

Having a job to do is synonymous with a purpose. That job could be a paid job or career, being a volunteer, caring for someone, or just going to school or finding a creative outlet. When we have a job to do, we have a reason to get up in the morning. Having purpose in life helps reframe stressful situations. It helps us recover from traumatic events and can even preserve our well-being helping us stay positive through the ups and downs of life.  
Purpose is also a huge part of raising a family.  If you or someone you love in your family needs support, you might consider helping them think about their purpose.  And of course, if more help is needed, we’re here for you and your family.


1. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/recovery-possible

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827458/