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How meaningful activities influence the recovery process

Ole Martin Nordaunet (Drammen, Norway)
Knut Tore Sælør (Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, University College of Southeast Norway, Drammen, Norway)

Advances in Dual Diagnosis

ISSN: 1757-0972

Article publication date: 23 May 2018

Issue publication date: 8 August 2018




The purpose of this paper is to explore two research questions: how do people with concurrent substance abuse and mental health disorders (concurrent conditions) experience and describe meaningful activities? And how do meaningful activities influence the recovery process?


This qualitative study uses an explorative and interpretive design in a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach. Transcribed interviews are analysed using a phenomenological-hermeneutic method for researching lived experience. The study was submitted to the Norwegian Center for Research Data where it was approved (Case No. 54661).


Structural analysis resulted in three overarching themes: achieving a positive identity through actions and feeling worthwhile; physically outside but inside the norms of society, and idleness, isolation, and obstacles on the road to recovery. Meaningful activities, considered a cornerstone in the recovery process, vary widely and are primarily described in social contexts, thereby confirming the significance of social aspects of recovery in addition to recovery as an individual journey. The findings also show that experiencing meaningful activities contributes to recovery capital and the development of recovery-promotive identities.

Research limitations/implications

The study consisted of a small sample size, recruited at one location which served as a primary research limitation.

Practical implications

This paper provides insights for health care practitioners and health care decision makers regarding the importance of meaningful activities viewed through a recovery perspective.


Few studies to date have used a comprehensive approach to describe the influence of experiencing meaningful activities on the recovery process.



The authors thank the participants who willingly and selflessly shared their life experiences, allowing this study to be conducted. The main author thanks Professor Larry Davidson at Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health for a welcoming stay and for his helpful ideas on the analysis process. This study was reported to the regional committees for medical and health research ethics (Case No. 2017/865 C), which deemed this study not to cover the scope of the Health Research Act. The study was instead submitted to the Norwegian Center for Research Data where it was approved (Case No. 54661). Lastly, we would like to thank Editage ( for English language editing. The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research. This study was performed without funding.


Nordaunet, O.M. and Sælør, K.T. (2018), "How meaningful activities influence the recovery process", Advances in Dual Diagnosis, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 114-125.



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