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The Tidal Model of Recovery


The Tidal Model of Recovery


The main focus of the model is on helping individuals create their own voyage of discovery as a means of recovery.


Phil Barker , who founded the model, defines the Tidal Model as a philosophical approach to the discovery of mental health. It emphasises helping people reclaim the personal story of mental distress, by recovering their voice. By using their own language, metaphors and personal stories people begin to express something of the meaning of their lives. This is the first step towards helping recover control over their lives. It provides a framework for the exploration of the client’s need for support and the provision of an individually tailored process whereby they can move towards a new, healthy future. The theory states that an individual’s mental well-being is dependent on his or her individual life experiences, including his or her sense of self, perceptions, thoughts, and actions.


The main philosophical metaphor is drawn from chaos theory. That is, the unpredictable, yet unbounded, nature of human behaviour and experience is compared to the dynamic flow and power of water and the tides of the sea.


There are six key philosophical assumptions in Barker’s Tidal Model:


  • a belief in the virtue of curiosity

  • recognition of the power of resourcefulness, instead of focusing on problems, deficits, or weaknesses

  • respect for the client’s wishes instead of being paternalistic

  • acceptance of the paradox of crisis as opportunity

  • acknowledging that all goals must belong to the individual

  • the virtue of pursing elegance: the simplest possible means should be sought


The tidal model can be used alone as you try to navigate towards a healthy future or in conjunction with a counsellor or coach, either way it puts you and your story at the heart of what happens.


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