Recovery Capital for Adolescents and Emerging Adults: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Application

Emily Fisher – HOD, Peabody Research Institute – request of Deanna Meador. Photo by Joe Howell.

Dr. Emily Alden Hennessy, MPhil, PhD

September 13th 1:30- 3:00pm Sky Room

Abstract: Adolescent recovery from substance use disorders is a complex and dynamic process requiring multiple individual and contextual resources.

Recovery capital is one theoretical framework that encompasses all these resources by incorporating four dimensions: financial, human, social, and community recovery capital.

The theory of recovery capital was developed through a study of adults who achieved natural recovery and has since been used primarily in adult recovery-related literature.

Thus, this presentation first discusses the primary components of recovery capital, with developmental adaptations specific to adolescents. Next, the presentation applies the recovery capital model to adolescents through two empirical studies. The first research study explores the recovery capital model among a national sample of adolescents from the United States who need treatment for a substance use disorder. This first study identifies five qualitatively distinct classes of recovery capital among this adolescent population, separated by financial resources, the types of social support received, and mental health ratings, among other factors.

Additionally, adolescent characteristics including sex, race, age, and previous treatment history predicted the type of recovery capital class to which an adolescent belongs. The second study examines whether recovery capital resources predict attendance at one form of community recovery capital, a recovery high school (RHS) versus returning to a traditional school (e.g., public school). The results of this study indicate that predictors of RHS attendance are diverse and represent factors in multiple recovery capital domains.

The strongest predictors of RHS attendance were individual-level factors such as problem solving orientation/skills, school attendance, and 12-Step frequency. Environmental factors including parent social position, substance-approving peers, and neighborhood social connection also predicted RHS attendance. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of how these findings impact future research and potential applications for practitioners who work with adolescents.


1. Audience members will be able to describe the different domains of recovery capital.
2. Audience members will be able describe how the recovery capital model could be applied to adolescents using a developmental lens and will be encouraged to consider factors not yet included in the model.
3. Audience members will be able to identify some characteristics that may be useful in assessing an adolescent’s recovery capital strengths and areas for additional support.


Dr. Emily A. Hennessy holds a PhD in Community Research and Action from Vanderbilt University, graduating with the Founders Medal for highest honors, and with a quantitative methods minor. As a US-Norway Fulbright scholar, she has received a Master of Philosophy in Health Promotion from the University of Bergen. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the University of Connecticut where she studies mechanisms of behavior change. Her focus for the past 10 years has broadly been on adolescent health promotion and she focused specifically on adolescent recovery and recovery capital for her doctoral research. She has a number of presentations and publications from her research on adolescent substance use and recovery including a Campbell Collaboration funded systematic review of recovery high schools and collegiate recovery programs.

Through her work with Dr. Andrew Finch, she was involved in the first empirical national US study of the effectiveness of recovery high schools. She is currently collaborating on a national study of secondary data analysis of collegiate recovery programs in the USA.


Recovery Capital Conference – Toronto 

September 13th and 14th, 2018

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 Recovery Capital Conference of Canada – Toronto Conference Centre

The Carlu
444 Yonge Street, 7th floor
Toronto ON M5B2H4