Recovery Capital is a concept that’s changing the recovery landscape across Canada.
Until now, research in the field of substance abuse has been mostly focused on the pathology of addiction, with the aim to understand why individuals become addicted in the first place. Are they genetically predisposed? Did they experience trauma or abuse? Was it the social settings they were exposed to?
Researchers have been asking questions like these about the underlying causes of addiction for years. While there is value in studying these trends, what the answers haven’t been able to provide is any connection to predicting outcomes of recovery. The reality is that any one of these factors, along with a myriad of others or a combination of many, can lead to the onset of addiction.
However, the addictions community has recently undergone a major shift in thought, moving from a pathology based focus, to one that focuses on recovery. What resources does it take to achieve recovery? What are the patterns and stages in long-term recovery? And how can different factors work together to give individuals the tools they need to maintain abstinence?
These types of questions represent a new way of thinking that is leading to greater outcomes and understanding of this tragic epidemic affecting countless Canadians. This new outlook calls for a deeper understanding of all the different resources and networks of support it takes to achieve an end goal of an alcohol or drug-free lifestyle as an active and contributing member of society – in what has become known as the concept of recovery capital.
What is recovery capital and how is it changing the addictions treatment landscape? 
Simply put, recovery capital is the internal and external resources needed for an individual to not only initiate, but maintain recovery from substance abuse. At the root of this concept is the acknowledgement that recovery is an individual journey and each person requires a different level of support and responds to different types of resources to achieve that goal.
Recovery capital can be broken into four different types: physical, human, family/social and community.
Physical capital includes all the concrete elements that it takes to build a life, including health, finances, insurance and access to things like shelter, clothing, food and transportation.
Human capital refers to personality traits, values, knowledge, self-awareness, self-esteem, outlook, sense of meaning in life and interpersonal skills.
Family/social capital is all about the relationships, both family, friends and otherwise, that positively contribute to the recovery process.
Finally, community capital is about the general outlook on recovery in society, meaning the attitudes, policies and resources in place and readily available to promote recovery, including a full continuum of local recovery community support institutions.
Recovery capital is built on the idea that addiction treatment must encompass more than simply withdrawal or intervention – but rather by developing and strengthening access to each of these four spheres.
Incorporating the idea of recovery capital within addiction treatment calls for the recovery journey to start with asking which resources need to be made available to support the long-term recovery of each person and this will be based on their unique background, needs and personal experiences. Then, the creation of a comprehensive treatment plan that engages all of the four spheres of recovery capital and can be accessed on an ongoing basis.
 White, W. & Cloud, W. (2008). Recovery capital: A primer for addictions professionals.
Our first article on this topic was an excellent one written by Allen Berger and posted in the summer of 2014. You can read it here: Recovery Capital.