Personal recovery and socio-structural disadvantage: a critical conceptual review

Dimitar Karadzhov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


Despite its seeming breadth and diversity, the bulk of the personal (mental health) recovery literature has remained strangely 'silent' about the impact of various socio-structural inequalities on the recovery process. Such an inadequacy of the empirical literature is not without consequences since the systematic omission or downplaying, at best, of the socio-structural conditions of living for persons with lived experience of mental health difficulties may inadvertently reinforce a reductionist view of recovery as an atomised, individualised phenomenon. Motivated by those limitations in extant scholarship, a critical literature review was conducted to identify and critique relevant research to problematise the notion of personal recovery in the context of socio-structural disadvantage such as poverty, homelessness, discrimination and inequalities. The review illuminates the scarcity of empirical research and the paucity of sociologically-informed theorisation regarding how recovery is shaped by the socio-structural conditions of living. Those inadequacies are especially pertinent to homelessness research, whereby empirical investigations of personal recovery have remained few and undertheorised. The gaps in the research and theorising about the relational, contextual and socio-structural embeddedness of recovery are distilled. The critical review concludes that personal recovery has remained underresearched, underproblematised and undertheorised, especially in the context of homelessness and other forms of socio-structural disadvantage. Understanding how exclusionary social arrangements affect individuals' recovery, and the coping strategies that they deploy to negotiate those, is likely to inform anti-oppressive interventions that could eventually remove the structural constraints to human emancipation and flourishing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-225
Number of pages25
Issue number2
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 May 2021


  • personal recovery
  • mental health
  • disadvantage
  • homelessness
  • social theory


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