What Are the 10 Guiding Principles of Recovery?


While addiction used to be widely stigmatized and seen as a personal failing, we have a greater understanding of addiction today. Not only do we appreciate that the roots of addiction often lay in trauma and illness, but we know how someone can recover. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes the ten principles that can drive successful recovery. The ten guiding principles of recovery have helped many people get better, and they can help you too.

The ten guiding principles of recovery are a holistic framework that makes space for the needs of the patient as well as the process. Real, lasting recovery must be based on the desire to change, hope that things can become better, and the support needed to make it happen.

  • Self Directed
  • Self-Centered
  • Empowering
  • Full-Picture
  • Realistic
  • Strengths-Based
  • Peer Support
  • Respect
  • Accountability
  • Hope

Together, these principles create a framework for understanding and treating addiction.

First Principle
While people often go to rehab on court orders, no one can force them to make progress. The potential to recover lays exclusively in the person suffering from addiction.

Second Principle
While people often speak of being self-centered as a bad thing, centering yourself is necessary to recover. Everyone’s path to recovery is different, and understanding your own needs, preferences, and goals is a vital step forward.

Third Principle
Shame-based recovery often sets people up to relapse; empowerment is a more effective, healthy alternative. You should feel empowered by your decisions, that you’re making your life better and are in control of your recovery.

Fourth Principle
Addiction can devastate every element of your life, from your social life to your spirituality. It’s necessary that recovery is a holistic, big-picture process that incorporates the connections and values you hold as important.

Fifth Principle
Recovery is an arduous, often painful, always difficult process. You’ll experience great successes, but setbacks will also accompany these. It’s necessary to be realistic so that you’re psychologically prepared for challenges and setbacks so that you can rebound from them.

Sixth Principle
Recovery requires you to make use of and believe in your strengths as a person. When you’re in a position of needing to come back from a setback, your belief in these things is what will empower you to do so.

Seventh Principle
People are innately social, and addiction is one of the most terribly isolating experiences in the world. Seeking out the support of friends, family, and others who are working to recover is an invaluable source of connection and motivation.

Eighth Principle
Respect for yourself and your goals is essential to a healthy, lasting recovery. Recovery is not only possible for you, but it’s something you deserve.

Ninth Principle
Accountability and responsibility for yourself are empowering things when you feel you’ve lost control. When striving for recovery, it’s essential to take responsibility for your own life.

Tenth Principle
The core of recovery is hope; hope that your efforts will pay off and that things will be better. Any recovery program must make its patients feel hopeful to give them the best opportunity at reclaiming their lives.

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