The Mighty Oak Model of Recovery

The Recovery Foundation® bases its materials and resources around the Mighty Oak Model of Recovery, which was created from the lived experience of Emma, the Founder, and has its roots in recovery literature and research.

The Mighty Oak Model of Recovery is made up of 7 stages. Each stage has a different theme following an acorn and its journey to a Mighty Oak tree:

Stage 1: Crisis

The acorn is buried underground.

Surrounded in darkness, its hard outer shell holds everything it needs for its future.

This is the crisis point in our mental health journey. We may be feeling burdened or afraid, have suffered a breakdown, or be in relapse. As we struggle to cope, feeling broken and battered by our experiences and life. It can feel like a very lonely and dark place.

Stage 2: Questioning

Underground the acorn begins to germinate.

The shell is broken by a shoot that reaches up towards the surface.

Some of the emotions we can feel at this stage include fear, anger, frustration, guilt and mistrust. Although we may still be very poorly we are starting to try to reach for answers to our questions and to understand more about ourselves.

Stage 3: Breakthrough

The shoot is searching for the light and grows upwards until it breaks the surface of the soil and it finds the light it will rely on for the rest of its life.

At the same time a tap root is growing down deeper. This will anchor the Oak Tree for its future.

We may start to see some light at the end of the tunnel in this stage; maybe as we start to understand our symptoms, and how to cope day to day. It may simply be the realisation that we are unwell. This breakthrough will provide the anchor that holds us through the ups and downs of our recovery.

Stage 4: Responsibility

The acorn, now secure in the soil, begins to grow from the main shoot.

The developing Oak tree is now responsible for producing its own food and will rely on the sunlight to help with this for its lifetime.

We will all reach this stage at different times. We need to grasp and understand that our recovery is our responsibility. Once we accept responsibility for our recovery we can begin building on our goals and hopes and plans.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Until this stage the Oak tree has managed without any major trials. However, things, as with all life, are never straightforward.

Within the area there is a very old tree. It’s tall and unstable. After a week of rain and high winds, the old tree loses its balance and comes crashing down. As it falls it catches the young Oak tree, breaking a branch. Our Oak is left damaged and facing its first challenge.

There will always be obstacles for us to overcome in our lives and we need to be able to find positive ways to cope when we find ourselves in trouble.

Stage 6: Growth

Now the Oak tree is maturing and growing.

With each change in season the Oak grows stronger.

Sometimes we need to do a bit of ‘life laundry’. This might involve letting go of past hurts or negative feelings. It is also about us learning to let ourselves off the hook and allowing ourselves a fresh start.

Stage 7: Giving

Now fully mature the Oak tree is able to produce its fruit; the acorn.

It has stood firm, anchored by its strong roots, through all weathers and seasons. Standing nearly 15 meters in height the Oak tree supports many life forms from insects to birds and small mammals.

Like an Oak tree, we can be ‘Hope Givers’. Our stories are important and so we can begin to give back to others who are starting their recovery journey. Although our recovery will continue, we can use the tools we have learnt to take responsibility and have hope for the rest of our lives.

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