Skip to content
  • Events

Child mental health figure heads, Peter Fonagy and Miranda Wolpert, debate the use of ‘recovery’ as a concept in latest CORC- and EBPU-hosted public seminars

A mixture of child mental health practitioners, researchers and students attended a packed debate between Professor Peter Fonagy and Professor Miranda Wolpert, arguing respectively for and against the motion: “Recovery* should not be used as an indicator of outcome in child mental health”.

Organised by the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) and the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) based at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, the event was the second in the “So What?” seminar series which asks "so what does this mean for policy and practice?" of recent research/evidence in child mental health.

For the purposes of the debate, recovery* was defined as ‘change in the severity of symptoms from above a given or clinical threshold before treatment, to below that threshold following treatment’. This aligned the debate with the findings of the latest CORC report on child and parent-reported outcomes from children and young people’s mental health services. Professors Fonagy and Wolpert each presented their argument before taking questions and comments from the floor, Twitter and a pre-event survey of attendees. These included:

“Do we need a benchmark to help us to understand when children and young people are/are not getting better and think about why they are not recovering?”

“A focus on ‘recovery’ can be narrow – once a child has ticked the right outcome boxes are they discharged even though they’re still suffering?”

Attendees voted for and against the motion at the start and end of the debate, interestingly shifting from a near 50/50 split at the beginning to being overwhelming ‘for’ at its close.

Professor Miranda Wolpert said: "Although I am gutted about having lost so resoundingly to Peter's arguments, I enjoyed the debate and hope it raised for people the genuine challenges of how to helpfully assess outcomes for children and young people accessing mental health services. I remain interested in the idea of using recovery as a clear metric that can aid discussions but recognise I have not convinced all of the utility of this approach!"