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  • Trevor Newnham

Psychosocial Rehabilitation: Enhancing Functioning and Recovery in Mental Health

Updated: May 16, 2023

People living with mental illnesses and other psychiatric concerns often need help in different aspects of their lives, including work, living, social, and learning environments. One approach that has been shown to help people manage their symptoms and improve their functioning is known as psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR).


PSR is a treatment approach designed to help improve the lives of people with disabilities. Its goal is to teach emotional, cognitive, and social skills that enable individuals diagnosed with mental illness to live and work in their communities as independently as possible. The approach utilises what is known as the recovery model of mental illness, which emphasises the person's potential for recovery and focuses on providing empowerment, social inclusion, support, and coping skills.


Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, people with serious mental illnesses were often institutionalised. However, the approach to the treatment of mental health issues has changed considerably since then, leading to de-institutionalisation. Today, there is an emphasis on helping people with mental health conditions live as independently as possible and to become fully integrated into the communities in which they live.

While the stigma surrounding mental illness still exists, PSR strives to help reduce prejudice and foster social inclusion. The approach is centered on the person's potential for recovery and focused on providing empowerment, social inclusion, support, and coping skills.


Regardless of the specific form of psychosocial services, the core goals of PSR include helping people feel hopeful, empowered, skilled, and supported. Rehabilitation aims to teach people skills to help them manage their condition and live the life they want to live. This includes living skills, work skills, social skills, and others. Mental health professionals should offer support and help clients build relationships and social connections in their community.

Research has shown that PSR is an effective treatment approach for individuals with severe mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. For example, a study by Roberts et al. (2017) found that individuals with schizophrenia who received PSR had better outcomes in terms of quality of life, social functioning, and overall symptom severity compared to those who received standard care. Additionally, a review by Rana et al. (2020) showed that PSR can improve vocational outcomes for individuals with severe mental illness.


There are a number of key principles of psychosocial rehabilitation that help guide mental health professionals working in this field. These principles include:

  1. All people have potential that can be developed.

  2. People have a right to self-determination.

  3. The emphasis is on the individual's strengths rather than their symptoms.

  4. Each person's needs are different.

  5. Professional services should be committed and take place in as normalised an environment as possible.

  6. There is a focus on a social model of care (as opposed to a medical model).

  7. It is centered on the present rather than fixated on the past.

PSR treatments are multidisciplinary and often biopsychosocial in nature. This perspective recognises that mental illness impacts multiple areas of life, including the biological, social, and psychological systems. Not only are each of these systems affected by mental conditions, but they are also inextricably interlinked. When something affects one area, it is bound to have an influence on other areas as well.

In light of this, PSR takes a whole-person approach and recognises that other mental health professionals and physicians may be needed to make contributions to the treatment process. Individual care may require a mixture of services and effective treatment. This often requires the facilitation of access to care from different domains In conclusion, PSR is an essential treatment approach that can improve the lives of people with mental illnesses and other psychiatric concerns. By teaching emotional, cognitive, and social skills, PSR helps individuals manage their symptoms and live as independently as possible. This approach is grounded in the recovery model of mental illness, which emphasises empowerment, social inclusion, support, and coping skills. PSR principles focus on the individual's strengths rather than their symptoms, recognising that each person's needs are different. The biopsychosocial perspective of PSR recognises that mental illness impacts multiple areas of life and that effective treatment often requires a mixture of services. While stigma surrounding mental illness still exists, PSR strives to reduce prejudice and foster social inclusion. Ultimately, PSR can lead to greater hope, empowerment, and skill development, all of which contribute to enhanced functioning and recovery in mental health.


If you or someone you know is experiencing mental ill health know that help is available. ACTS3 is a psychosocial rehabilitation organisation that provides a range of services to help individuals overcome mental health challenges and improve their overall well-being. Our team of trained professionals offers evidence-based treatments as well as social support and community-based programs. To learn more about our services and how we can help, email or call us at info@acts3.org.au or1300 290 379.




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