Building A Person-Centered Recovery Plan

In this section, you will learn about best practices to collaboratively develop a recovery plan. Upon completion, you should be able to:

  • Discuss key elements of person-centered recovery planning
  • Describe steps to follow to develop a recovery plan.

Building a Recovery Plan

When you head for a new destination, you need a map to show you the roads you can take. A treatment plan is a roadmap of the route you and your providers agree on when you decide you want to treatment for a mental health or addictive disorder. It represents what you need and tends to be somewhat deficit-based.

recovery plan is like picture of your destination and a vision for where you want to go. It is based on what you have and what you want. Treatment plans usually represent short-term collaborations between you and behavioral healthcare professionals.

Supporting Recovery Self-Management

A recovery plan is a completely self-directed, indefinite, and changes over time as people heal and grow. Peer support specialists can guide people through the recovery planning process and facilitate recovery self-management. They can help ensure people remain in the driver’s seat and the goals important to them.

Preparing for a Rainy Day

Everyone goes through tough times, has setbacks where they temporarily revert to old, self-destructive behaviors, or sometimes may even feel life is not worth living. It is said that recovery is accepting life on life terms—meaning expecting these things to occur, but also maintaining the belief that we’ll get through it.  Before long, we can look back on a track record of successfully getting through it. The quality of our lives is no longer based on the expectation that our problems will disappear, but rather the ability to cope with them.

Some of the ways peer specialists support resilience include helping people:

  • Recognize their strengths and identify their assets
  • Develop skills and find the resource they need to bounce back
  • Become more comfortable asking for help

Some of the ways peer specialists help people preserve their right to make their own decisions, or their autonomy, is by doing some crisis planning in advance, because it is much easier to plan for a rainy day when you are not standing in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Overdose Prevention Plans

Never have the risks associated with both prescription and illicit drug use been greater than during the last two decades. Below is a simple ‘pocket plan. Although overdose prevention plans are essential for people recovering from addictive disorders, it’s a good idea for everyone to have information on how to respond to an overdose emergency—especially family members.

Pocket Overdose Prevention Plan

Emergency overdose numbers are:

  • Where I will get/keep Narcan:
  • A person close to me who has Narcan or can administer it is:
  • Someone I will check in with if I use is:
  • How I’ll contact them and how I’d like them to check on me: (phone, text, in-person, email)

Other steps I will take:


Dispelling myths

Peer support specialists can also help dispel dangerous myths and beliefs such as: the stimulating effects of cocaine or meth will counteract the sedating effects of opioids and protect you from overdose. The truth is the exact opposite!  People who return to drug use, relapse, or slip even one time are at extremely high risk.  Research on individuals who survived an overdose people gave two common reasons for overdosing (Binswanger et al., 2012):

  1. Lack of knowledge about decreased tolerance after a period of abstinence (due to time in custody, treatment, or a period of recovery)
  2. The increase in potency of street drugs during periods they were they were drug-free.

Ignorance of these two factors is a deadly combination, especially with the added risk of combining substances.  These take-home points may need to be repeated and reinforced more than once to dispel long-held false beliefs. Access to naloxone kits along with education on administering it, is an evidenced-based practice and a cost-effective one.  It is critical to make sure they really understand California’s Good Samaritan law and the protections for people who call for help with an overdose emergency. The law protects people from:

  • arrest, charges, and prosecution for violation of possession laws
  • arrest, charges, and prosecution for violation of drug paraphernalia laws

Other Resilience Planning Tools

Below are questions peer support specialist can use to help people develop components of their recovery plan.

  1. What works for me?
  • Always makes me feel better
  • Makes me laugh
  • Calms me down
  1. What helps with self-care & wellness?
  • If I can’t sleep-do I try catch-up sleep, relaxation, natural supplements, etc.?
  • Does exercise to help me sleep, deal with stress, or depressed moods?
  • Do I eat regularly and choose foods that replace nutrients lost while using?
  1. Am I doing enough of what I really like to do?
  • What do I like to do that I haven’t done in a long time?
  • What have I always wanted to do but never had a chance to try?
  • Who are the people can I connected with who are really in my corner?
  1. What can I do to cope with stress or depression? 
  • What are the things do I stop doing that are fun or good for me?
  • What pleasant places can I force myself to go when I don’t want to leave the house?
  • What is something I can do for 10 minutes that helps with mood and stress?
  • Can I do something for someone else when I need to get out of my own head?
  • What things that stress me out that I can reduce or eliminate right now?
  1. These things tend to trigger cravings to use alcohol or drugs:
  1. When I do these things, it helps relieve the compulsion to use alcohol or drugs:

Achieving Self-Identified Goals

Peer support specialist help people figure out what they want and how to achieve it by identifying short-term and long-term goals and prioritizing them. For example, people can list a few short-term goals. Then they can rank them in terms of importance and order them into a timeline.

Short term goals



I want to get back in touch with my brother 1 3
I want to quit smoking 4 5
I want to go to a naloxone training 3 2
I want to find a place to live 2 1
I want to get a better job 4 4

Breaking goals that can seem overwhelming in smaller action steps can help people achieve them. When someone is ready to move forward, SMART action steps are best. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited.  For example:

I want to find a place to live

  • By this time next week
  • I will look on Craigslist for rentals for no more than 1 hour
  • I will list at least 5 possible rentals and will call at least 3
  • I will bring the notes from the calls to go over next week

Dare to dream

Sometimes people in our lives lower their expectations based on the way we acted when we were at our worst.  That can sometimes affect the way we think of our own potential.  Peer support specialists sometimes must encourage people to have a vision of the person they want to be and they life they want to have even when they don’t quite believe they deserve it.

Some of these are good reminders

  • Recovery means to get something back
  • It means getting strong in the broken places
  • It means breaking the cycle
  • Recovery means we know how and who to ask for help
  • Recovery means we know signs and risk factors

Sometimes recovery means reaching in

  • Deep inner values
  • Spiritual principles
  • Finding meaning

Sometimes recovery means reaching out

  • Supporting each other
  • Helping family and friends
  • Connecting with the community