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Illness Management and Recovery program graduation in 2012

National journal publishes study on effectiveness of Illness Management and Recovery program

Earlier this decade, Places for People introduced “Illness Management and Recovery” as a recovery-focused program for adults living with severe mental illness who receive the highest intensity of treatment. The initial findings of this approach’s effectiveness have recently been published in a national journal.

Dr. Gary Morse, Vice President of Research and Development, was the lead author of the article, “Implementing illness management and recovery within assertive community treatment teams: A qualitative study” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/prj0000387),  which was published online by Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal in September in advance of a future print version.

The study assessed the fit between implementing “Illness Management and Recovery” within Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams. ACT Teams are specially designed to meet all of the needs of people with the most serious of mental illnesses and the most complex additional challenges. ACT is the highest intensity of care available at Places for People.

Illness Management and Recovery (IMR) is an evidence-based practice that has been practiced for nearly two decades. IMR engages individuals in an individual or group setting to help them learn about managing mental illnesses and developing recovery-focused goals.

“The research shows that IMR helps to improve the quality of services to people with serious mental illness – and ultimately to facilitate their recovery while helping people to build better, healthier and more satisfying lives,” Morse said. “These results make it clear that teams and agencies should add IMR to their menu of services for people with the most serious and disability of mental illnesses–who are the people that ACT teams serve.  In addition, the research will help other providers to learn how to overcome challenges and be more successful in learning how to provide IMR to people with serious mental illness on ACT teams.”

The qualitative study was conducted between 2012-2015 with 11 ACT teams in Missouri and Washington that implement IMR. It included interviews and focus groups with 17 individuals enrolled in services and 55 ACT staff members. The data were analyzed between 2015-2018, with the study being published in September.

The research shows that IMR helps to improve the quality of services to people with serious mental illness – and ultimately to facilitate their recovery while helping people to build better, healthier and more satisfying lives.

Dr. Gary Morse, Vice President of Research and Development

The study concludes that “While there can be barriers to implementing IMR within ACT teams, there is generally a positive fit, it is feasible to implement, and it offers meaningful benefits.” A promising finding of the study was that IMR was frequently cited as helping individuals enrolled in services improve in their outcomes in areas such as symptom management, coping with stress, gain and maintain sobriety, improving relationships with family and social contacts, gaining employment, and enhance mood.

In IMR, participants are encouraged to develop his or her own definitions of recovery.

One participant quoted in the study said, “It helps to focus on goals and not be distracted by my chaotic apartment, but to focus on what’s really important. I have momentum; I’m not getting side-tracked; I take small steps and I have support (from ACT staff).”

IMR’s curriculum includes 11 different topics covering areas such as education about mental illnesses, coping with stress and symptoms, health and wellness, social skill development, and strategies to reduce substance use.

The study found that both participants and staff members benefited from the experience. The study quotes one staff member who said, “IMR has helped turn the concept of recovery into a tangible thing.”

IMR has helped turn the concept of recovery into a tangible thing.

This project was supported by a Collaborative R34 research and development grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Co-authors of the study were Dr. Maria Monroe-DeVita of University of Washington-Seattle, Mary York of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Roselyn Peterson of University of Central Florida, Joris Miller of Places for People, MacKenzie Hughes of Georgia Institute of Technology, Elizabeth Carpenter-Song of Dartmouth College, Christopher Akiba of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Gregory McHugo of Dartmouth College.

With the publication of this study, Morse said the next step is to incorporate IMR into more ACT teams across the nation.

“The next challenge is to create greater uptake of IMR into more ACT teams,” Morse said. “The results are encouraging about the benefits of IMR for helping to improve the recovery and lives of people with serious mental illness, but more ACT teams need to learn how to provide IMR and offer it to the people they serve.”

The results are encouraging about the benefits of IMR for helping to improve the recovery and lives of people with serious mental illness, but more ACT teams need to learn how to provide IMR and offer it to the people they serve.