While the concept of recovery remains a mystery to many in the justice field, emerging research has confirmed that the long-term prognosis for SUD’s are quite favourable and the majority of those who seek help for a SUD can and do recover. (Best, 2018). In fact, people not only recover, but in many cases this growth may exceed general population levels of quality of life when they reach ‘stable’ recovery of five years or more of continuous sobriety (Hibbert & Best, 2011) – generating the idea that recovery may not be about remission to a ‘normal’ state but rather a transcendence to a state that can be characterised as ‘better than well’. This wellness ripples out into the community in the form of increased civic participation and engagement.

The ‘better than well’ model of change can explain the ‘rebound effect’ from serious adverse life events and the ensuing “post-traumatic growth” that has been documented. For those with criminal justice and substance use disorders, the emerging research confirms that these experiences can provide the motivational fulcrum to transcend the difficulties and can explain the ‘rebound effect’ from serious adverse life events. Studies confirm that these adversities can often produce tremendous resilience and bring forth an inner strength that has been referred to as “post-traumatic growth”, and in the recovery space this is most evident in social and community activism and engagement.

This shift in perspective is creating an enormous opportunity for policy and practices that recognize this potential for growth and transformation. Discussion will include the latest research studies and innovative programs that have emerged from these findings. Central to this work is the concept of “Recovery Capital” and the impact it had across personal, social, and community domains, and our growing capacity to measure where individuals are in terms of the growth of their recovery resources and potential.

This presentation will provide an overview of David Best’s work in the justice systems in UK and Australia, accompanied with a discussion by Susan Broderick on this work is being introduced in the United States justice system along with the “Inside and Out” programming in The Phoenix, a non-profit sober active community.

Learning objectives:

1. Understand the ‘better than well’ theory in addiction recovery
2. Recognise how strengths-based approaches impact quality of life
3. Provide examples of the transformative power of recovery capital across individual, social, and community domains.

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