Recovery Capital: Its Role in Sustaining Recovery

Recovery Capital is a phrase that’s gaining in popularity as we broaden our understanding of the recovery process. However, it can feel a little academic. What does it mean in real terms? 

Picture of leaves and recovery capital

Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

What is recovery capital?

According to author and researcher William White, the concept of recovery capital was introduced by Robert Granfield and William Cloud in a series of articles and their book, Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction without Treatment. Granfield and Cloud define recovery as the volume of internal and external assets to initiate and sustain recovery from severe alcohol or other drug problems. 

White states, “Recovery capital is conceptually linked to natural recovery, solution-focused therapy, strengths-based case management, recovery management, resilience and protective factors, and the ideas of hardiness, wellness, and global health.” 

There is an added functionality to this concept, however. The resources, or capital, a person needs depend heavily on the severity of a person’s substance use disorder and the resources they already have available. Say a person has severe substance use disorder but little recovery capital. They are more likely to benefit from professional treatment and post-treatment support services. However, a person with moderate or severe substance use disorder and high recovery capital may require fewer resources to find and maintain recovery. 

In other words, recovery capital is the total resources that a person has available to find and maintain their recovery. 

What are the different types of recovery capital?

White defines three types of recovery capital:

  1. Personal recovery capital.This includes an individual’s physical and human capital. Physical capital is the available resources to fulfil a person’s basic needs, like their health, healthcare, financial resources, clothing, food, safe and habitable shelter, and transportation. Human capital relates to a person’s abilities, skills, and knowledge, like problem-solving, education and credentials, self-esteem, the ability to navigate challenging situations and achieve goals, interpersonal skills, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. 
  2. Family/social recovery capital. These resources relate to intimate relationships with friends and family, relationships with people in recovery, and supportive partners. It also includes the availability of recovery-related social events
  3. Community recovery capital. This includes attitudes, policies, and resources specifically related to helping individuals resolve substance use disorders. Community resources are vast. According to White, they can include:
    1. Recovery activism and advocacy aimed at reducing stigma
    2. A full range of addiction treatment resources
    3. Peer-led support, such as mutual-aid meetings, that seek to meet the diverse needs of the community
    4. Recovery Community Organizations
    5. Recovery support institutions, educational-based recovery support such as recovery high schools and colleges, recovery housing, and recovery ministries and churches.
    6. Visible and diverse local recovery role models
    7. Resources to sustain recovery and early intervention programs, like employee assistance programs, and drug courts
  4. Cultural capital. These resources resonate with individuals cultural and faith-based beliefs, such as resources for Native Americans, and people of the following faiths: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish.

What are the benefits of recovery capital?

Put simply, recovery capital can help sustain recovery and reduce the risks of returning to use by increasing a person’s support system. Recovery capital can determine the success of natural and assisted recovery, improve coping strategies and enhance the quality of life in long-term recovery, and end addiction careers. We must be mindful of increasing resources to marginalized communities when addressing recovery capital.

How do you measure recovery capital?

White helpfully designed a scale that can be used to assess a person’s recovery capital, identify areas to improve, and help formulate a recovery capital plan with actionable steps. This scale can be accessed here


To find out how to access local community support, you can search our list of recovery community organizations. Please visit our blog outlining an extensive list of  pathways of recovery that include social and peer-based resources, cultural and faith-based supports, and clinical treatment information.