Eight Dimensional Wellness

Integrative & Non-Linear

Eight Dimensional Wellness

Although the Recovery Journey is Intensely Personal; there are some Characteristics we Share in Common

A Good Model for All Personal Growth

8 Aspects of Healthy Wellbeing

In the Late 1980’s beliefs about chronic mental health began to be challenged along with the idea that stabilization was all we could hope for. It was discovered that there were many outcomes available and that many people are able to go beyond mere stabilization. By the late 1990’s the idea of Recovery began to gain traction.

The mainstream definition of Recovery was developed around 1993 by William Anthony:

“a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by the illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.”

Because recovery is so personal, we all eventually develop our own definition of it. Some common characteristics follow:

  • Hope: considered the foundation of on-going recovery, without hope there is no motivation for trying. Some sociologists view hopelessness and despair as the chief instigator in all social problems. Initially, hope may spring from the success of others who have recovered but ultimately, the peer will need to develop and internalize their own sense of hope. The good news is that this becomes easier as we garner more success.
  • Empowerment: the power to change and control aspects of our own life (including our wellness and recovery). Assuming responsibility for our ourselves and advocating for our self, other, and community are part of this equation. Like the internalization of hope, empowerment is a journey of personal growth.
  • Employment/Meaning: every life needs meaning, which is often found in our contribution to society. Since people with mental health or substance use issues are often marginalized by society, our recovery is also a journey of reintegration and re-establishing our value to our community. For many of us this will take the form of employable identity or some other form of contributing role (such as volunteer work, for instance). Our level of (re)integration helps to define our self-worth, confidence, esteem, and positive identity (including purpose and meaningfulness).
  • Spirituality: our innermost (or subjective) source of meaning and purpose. Provides a source of hope, peace, meaning, understanding, comfort, and for religious practice a means of social support and integration. Beyond the institutions of religion, it can mean nurturing a sense of personal partnership with the Divine.
  • Education & Knowledge: the journey of recovery is a journey of self-knowledge. To do this effectively, we must learn about our illnesses, medications, and treatment modalities, our symptoms and how to manage them. For peers, this is largely self-education (attending workshops, on-line research, reading, asking health care professionals, experiential learning, support groups, discussion groups and newsletters, etc.)
  • Self-help: alongside professional treatment, most peers will need to rely on self-help in their own journey of growth and recovery. (see self-education, above).
  • Support: in addition to self-help, it will be essential to identify and make full use of all the avenues of social and community support. This affords the peer greater integration into meaningful roles in society, keeps us active and engaged socially, and reduces our isolation (and subsequent marginalization).

Support comes in the form of other peers, family, friends and behavioral health professionals.

“Participation in support groups is an important tool for recovery. Peers frequently report that being able to interact with others who understand their feelings and experiences is the most important ingredient for their recovery” (VDBH&DS office of Recovery Services, Peer Recovery Training Manual; henceforth referred to as PRS Manual)

  • Medication & Treatment: Most people who live with a psychiatric disorder report that medications are critical to their recovery success. For some who live with substance use issues, Medication Assistance Therapies are also critical. Sometimes the chief concern is with whatever helps in doing the least amount of harm possible. This might mean that the goal, rather than becoming medication-free, would be to take the least amount necessary.


The journey of recovery may start with a heavy emphasis on some particular aspect, but will eventually expand to encompass Health and Wellness in all facets of an individual’s growth and wellbeing. This is a holistic journey that is interdependent and non-linear. Study the chart below to see the eight dimensional interlinkage:

8 dimensions chart

The Dimensions are as follows:

  • Emotional: Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships.
  • Financial: Satisfaction with current and future financial situations.
  • Social: Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and well-developed support system.
  • Spiritual: Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life.
  • Occupational: Personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work.
  • Physical: Recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep, and nutrition
  • Intellectual: Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills.
  • Environmental: Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support wellbeing.

(from Swarbrick: A Wellness Approach (2006) p. 311-316)