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Illness Management and Recovery

Illness Management and Recovery (IMR)

The Illness Management and Recovery (IMR) Program helps people set meaningful goals for themselves, acquire information and skills to develop more mastery over their psychiatric illness and make progress towards their own personal recovery.

IMR is an evidence-based practice that was developed at Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center through a contract from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) and a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

IMR is designed for almost anyone who experiences symptoms caused by a major mental illness. Specifically, research and educational materials cover four areas of symptoms: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression. The program can be provided in individual or group formats and generally lasts between 5 to 12 months.


The Goals of IMR are to:

  • Instill hope that change is possible.

  • Help people establish personally meaningful goals.

  • Teach information about mental illness and treatment options.

  • Develop skills for reducing relapses, dealing with stress, and coping with symptoms.

  • Provide information about where to obtain needed resources.

  • Help people develop or enhance their natural supports for managing their illness and pursing goals

Key Features of the IMR Practice:

  • Emphasis on consumer-centered recovery goals

  • Mutual responsibility in planning and pursuing goals rather than “following treatment.”

  • Focus on client’s context of life rather than just on their symptoms

  • Strengths vs. Problems

  • Encourages the involvement of significant others

  • Emphasis on the outside practice of skills.

Covers Ten Topic Areas

  • Recovery Strategies

  • Practical Facts about Mental Illness

  • The Stress-Vulnerability Model

  • Building Social Support

  • Using Medications Effectively

  • Drug and Alcohol Use

  • Reducing Relapses

  • Coping with Stress

  • Coping with Problems and Persistent Symptoms

  • Getting Your Needs Met in the Mental Health System

Who can provide IMR services? Those who:

  • Have a good knowledge about mental illness, including diagnosis, symptoms, course and principles of treatment.

  • Can structure sessions

  • Are familiar with the IMR curriculum

  • Can learn core strategies:

    • Motivational strategies

    • Educational strategies

    • Cognitive-behavioral strategies

How do staff benefit from utilizing IMR?

  • Learning a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to helping people gain skills to better manage their mental illness.

  • Saving time by receiving ready-to-use materials for conducting sessions/groups.

  • Gaining skills in using motivational strategies, cognitive behavioral strategies, and educational strategies.

  • Experiencing increased job satisfaction from seeing improved outcomes, such as people reducing relapses and hospitalizations and making progress in their goals for recovery.


Open Sky Community Services currently has 8 programs that use the IMR model, which is provided in both residential and supported housing programs. We require new practitioners to go through 5 intensive days of training, as well as participate in ongoing weekly consultation and training. Fidelity to the IMR model is assessed every six months.


For more information, please contact:

Kerrin Westerlind, LICSW

Director of IMR Services



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