Recovery Capital for Adolescents


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

Dr. Emily Alden Hennessy

Date: September 7th 1:30 pm Studio 411


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.

Learning Objectives:

1. Audience members will be able to describe the different domains of recovery capital.
2. Audience members will be able to 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.


Emily A. Hennessy holds a PhD in Community Research and Action from Vanderbilt University with quantitative methods minor and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the University of Connecticut. She has studied adolescent health promotion for the past 10 years and focused 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. Finch, she was also involved in the first empirical study of the effectiveness of recovery high schools, a project that also involved visiting and interviewing recovery administrators and treatment staff at various adolescent treatment and recovery locations.

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