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  • Author or Editor: Lucy Webb x
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The importance of social identity in the process of recovery from substance use is increasingly supported by evidence, particularly from the UK and Australia. Social identity as an important element in recovery appears crucial in developing a recovery identity rather than an addict identity, particularly when strengthened by validating factors of social belonging and recovery-group membership (Orford, 2001; Best et al, 2014, 2018; Beckwith et al, 2019).

The definition of recovery in substance use is debated, as many interpretations align it with sobriety and abstinence (Groshkova et al, 2013), but to view recovery as a trajectory, as we accept it in this chapter, suggests multiple stages and transitions towards a self-defined state of recovery.

Important factors in support of recovery are elements brought together under the umbrella of ‘recovery capital’, those internal and external resources that aid a person in their recovery from substance use (Mawson et al, 2015). These may include personal resilience and motivation, problem-solving skills, education and a sense of purpose, and extra-personal assets such as supportive social and family relationships, socio-economic opportunities and supportive connections (Cloud and Granfield, 2008). It is clear that external recovery capital stems from theories of social capital, in which links with external social bonds give a sense of community (Putnam, 1995; 2001) and facilitate access to resources through social connections (Bourdieu, 1977). However, the internal sense of recovery capital has more resonance with identity capital and intra-personal resources. In this, we see parallels with the development of resilience and sense of self that stems from developmental theories.

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Young people leaving out-of-home care experience higher levels of emotional, social, educational and vocational disadvantage when compared with peers from stable home-care environments. Care leavers’ educational trajectories may be interrupted, their development of self-identity during transition through adolescence disturbed, and their social and emotional development disrupted due to their diminished accumulation of social and cultural capital. This article presents a re-analysis of the qualitative data derived from a mixed-method study of the experience of young care leavers engaged with a community-based volunteering project in the United Kingdom. We describe how young care leavers developed self-efficacy through volunteering and show how care leavers create a space for agency and self-work, negotiate and cultivate identities independent from statutory supports, and situate themselves within wider relational and social contexts. Implications for future research, policy and practice with younger people leaving statutory care are explored.

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