What Is Recovery Capital?

Human, physical, social and cultural resources are all crucial to supporting recovery from addiction

November 10, 2021
Group of people hugging in the park

To improve the odds of success during recovery, individuals are often advised to identify and utilize “recovery capital.” Classically, capital (as money) is defined as accumulated assets invested or available for investment. Recovery capital represents investments in an individual’s future.

What Is Recovery Capital?

Recovery capital is the measurement and quality of resources needed to support an individual along their entire treatment journey. This understanding of a lifelong journey is critical in understanding recovery capital. Treatment is no longer viewed as a single event or action but is now understood to be a lifelong series of outcomes in the sober journey. Reassessment of recovery assets and deficits may need to be addressed to adapt to changes or circumstances to further support the ongoing recovery process.

Authors Robert Granfield and William White explain recovery capital through a series of articles and book “Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction Without Treatment,” published in 1999. As they describe it, recovery capital is the volume of internal and external assets that can be brought to bear to initiate and sustain recovery from alcohol and other drug problems. Recovery capital is grouped into categories — internal, which is human and physical, and external, which is social and cultural.

  • Human and Physical: Includes housing, nutrition, employment, education and personal resources; mental, spiritual and emotional health; knowledge, coping, wellbeing, mindfulness and physical fitness; financial responsibility.
  • Social and Cultural: Comprises community attitudes and recovery supports; policies and resources related to recovery; efforts to reduce stigma; diverse recovery role models, accessible and sustained recovery supports, peer supports, sense of personal choice, connection to purpose; availability of multiple pathways of recovery, community assets, recovery-focused systems of care.

How Does Recovery Capital Support Treatment?

Recovery capital is critical in supporting long-term recovery. It also reduces the risk that an individual will relapse. The recovery community encourages the use of a support system, and recovery capital can help increase support. But lack of recovery capital has an impact, too. For example, treatment provided by clinical staff in residential, outpatient and therapeutic settings is a valuable resource for those who want to quit substance use. But those resources are more accessible if those individuals have insurance and financial resources.

Understanding a person’s recovery capital is critical in creating individualized relapse prevention plans. Those plans seek to identify internal and external supports as a way to increase recovery capital. Think of recovery capital as a tool that helps those in recovery better understand the situations that drive addiction, identify the resources that can offset triggers, and bring better balance to daily living.

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