Growing research has highlighted that the first few years of psychotic illnesses constitute a
“critical period” in which (i) the majority of the functional deterioration that accompanies these illnesses
occurs, and (ii) individuals are most responsive to both pharmacological and psychosocial treatments for
psychosis and its deleterious sequelae. Clinical interest in intervening earlier in psychotic episodes, and
what early intervention might mean for a person’s symptom reduction and social functioning, has
emerged within a decades-long history of social science research on the concept of recovery. In this
article, we describe the intersection between that long-standing interest in recovery and the more recent
attention to first-episode psychosis to explore conundrums that may arise as clinicians engage with their
clients following a first episode of psychosis. We suggest ways of addressing these situations by
highlighting several complementary or alternative approaches to traditional psychiatric treatment and
conclude with a call to rethink ways of doing research on recovery in first-episode psychosis.
Keywords: First-episode psychosis, recovery, service-based definitions, user-based definitions, agency, meaning, antipsychotic
medication, qualitative research.
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