Our guiding principles



When CAPSA refers to recovery, we are talking about recovery from the mental health issue of addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, and often people with substance-based or behavioural (process) addiction(s) suffer from other untreated mental health problems that are obstacles to their recovery. As it is for many forms of mental illness, there is currently no cure. However, recovery is possible through a series of changes to an individual’s life that allows them to better manage their disease and reach their full potential.


There is no common, unified definition of recovery from addiction. However, for our purposes, CAPSA has adopted the US  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA) definition:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.


Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms, and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellbeing.

A stable and safe place to live.

Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family care-taking, or creative endeavours, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society.

Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.


CAPSA has adopted ten guiding principles for the development of our initiatives and programs:

Recovery emerges from hope

The belief that recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future—that people can and do overcome the internal and external challenges, barriers, and obstacles that confront them. Hope is internalized and can be fostered by peers, families, providers, allies, and others. Hope is the catalyst of the recovery process.

Recovery is person-driven

Self-determination and self-direction are the foundations for recovery as individuals define their own life goals and design their unique path(s) towards those goals. Individuals optimize their autonomy and independence to the greatest extent possible by leading, controlling, and exercising choice over the services and supports that assist their recovery and resilience. In so doing, they are empowered and provided with the resources to make informed decisions, initiate recovery, build on their strengths, and gain or regain control over their lives.

Recovery occurs via many pathways

Individuals are unique with distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and backgrounds— including trauma experience — that affect and determine their pathway(s) to recovery. Recovery is built on the multiple capacities, strengths, talents, coping abilities, resources, and inherent value of each individual. Recovery pathways are highly personalized. They may include professional clinical treatment; use of medications; support from families and in schools; faith-based approaches; peer support; harm reduction; and other approaches. Recovery is non-linear, characterized by continual growth and improved functioning that may involve setbacks. Because setbacks are a natural, though not inevitable, part of the recovery process, it is essential to foster resilience for all individuals and families. In some cases, recovery pathways can be enabled by creating a supportive environment.

Recovery is holistic

Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. This includes addressing: self-care practices, family, housing, employment, transportation, education, clinical treatment for mental health and addictions, services and supports, primary healthcare, dental care, complementary and alternative services, faith, spirituality, creativity, social networks, and community participation. The array of services and supports available should be integrated and coordinated.

Recovery is supported by peers and allies

Mutual support and mutual aid groups, including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills, as well as social learning, play an invaluable role in recovery. Peers encourage and engage other peers and provide each other with a vital sense of belonging, supportive relationships, valued roles, and community. Through helping others and giving back to the community, one helps one’s self. Peer operated supports and services provide important resources to assist people along their journeys of recovery and wellness. Professionals often play an important role in the recovery process by providing clinical treatment and other services that support individuals in their chosen recovery paths.

Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks

An important factor in the recovery process is the presence and involvement of people who believe in the person’s ability to recover; who offer hope, support, and encouragement; and who also suggest strategies and resources for change. Family members, peers, providers, faith groups, community members, and other allies form vital support networks. Through these relationships, people leave unhealthy and/or unfulfilling life roles behind and engage in new roles (e.g., partner, caregiver, friend, student, employee) that lead to a greater sense of belonging, personhood, empowerment, autonomy, social inclusion, and community participation.

Recovery is culturally-based and influenced

Culture and cultural background in all of its diverse representations—including values, traditions, and beliefs—are keys in determining a person’s journey and unique pathway to recovery. Services should be culturally grounded, attuned, sensitive, congruent, and competent, as well as personalized to meet each individual’s unique needs.

Recovery is supported by trauma-informed services

The experience of trauma (such as physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, disaster, and others) is often a precursor to or associated with addictions and mental health problems, and related issues. Services and supports should be trauma-informed to foster safety (physical and emotional) and trust, as well as promote choice, empowerment, and collaboration.

Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility

Individuals, families, and communities have strengths and resources that serve as a foundation for recovery. In addition, individuals have a personal responsibility for their own self-care and journeys of recovery. Individuals should be supported in speaking for themselves. Families and significant others have responsibilities to support their loved ones, especially for children and youth in recovery. Communities have responsibilities to provide opportunities and resources to address discrimination and to foster social inclusion and recovery. Individuals in recovery also have a social responsibility and should have the ability to join with peers to speak collectively about their strengths, needs, wants, desires, and aspirations.

Recovery is based on respect

Community, systems, and societal acceptance and appreciation for people affected by mental health and addiction problems— including protecting their rights and eliminating discrimination—are crucial in achieving recovery. There is a need to acknowledge that taking steps towards recovery may require great courage. Self-acceptance, developing a positive and meaningful sense of identity, and regaining belief in one’s self are particularly important.

CAPSA would like to acknowledge the work of the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the development of the definition, dimensions and guiding principles of recovery, that have been adapted for our purposes, as well as the tools and resources made freely available through their Recovery Support Initiative website.