The Strengths Model’s Focus on Meaningful Relationships

In my last post, I wrote about the Strengths Model – a progressive attitude about mental health thinking, care and services put forward by Charles Rapp and Richard Goscha in their book The Strengths Model: A Recovery-Oriented Approach to Mental Health Services, Third Edition, 2012.

The first proposition of their Strengths Model is: “The quality of niches people inhabit determines their achievement, quality of life and success in living”.

Here I address an equally important principle underlying the Strengths Model: “People who are successful in living [with mental illness] have a meaningful relationship with at least one other person.”

As a person living with mental illness, I have been fortunate. I’ve had two relationships especially meaningful and empowering to me at most times throughout my adult life. One meaningful relationship was with my husband, Jim. We had the great good fortune of always being able to talk over the hard issues of mental illness. He was, and is, my sounding board and advocate, too. Important also to me was the relationships I’ve had with a succession of strong women mentors. Sometimes that second person was a colleague; sometimes that person was one of my psychiatrists, but a second meaningful relationship was nearly always there.

Why was that second meaningful relationship so important? At times I was unsure just how objective my husband could be. “Of course,” I might (and sometimes did) think, “my husband will encourage and believe in me; he is my husband.” Jim would “have” to be on my side. In the face of negative thinking, a second meaningful relationship was very helpful.

These Meaningful Relationships are characterized by a partnership which is Reciprocal, Empowering, Genuine, Trusting, and Purposeful. Partnerships that intentionally strive to avoid Spirit-Breaking words and actions and focus on Hope-Inducing Behaviors.

It’s also a partnership characterized by continuity in the face of struggle.

For little did I know then how many persons with mental illness lose the support, understanding, respect and love of those with whom they had meaningful relationships, as they progress through life.

I will continue to write about these special partnerships and their characteristics. For these are relationships that can ignite and fuel successful living with mental illness.