Eighty years ago, the state-of-the-art treatment for mental illness was electric shock treatment. Cold water immersion, insulin shock and lobotomies were other remedies for those with recurrent “nervous” disorders. The stigma of mental illness was compounded in states like Illinois, where one received a court record when released from a state hospital.
In 1937 Dr. Abraham A. Low, a neuropsychiatrist with the Psychiatric Institute at the University of Illinois, worked with his patients to form the organization now known as Recovery International (RI) to help patients re-integrate into the community following hospitalization. He developed techniques of self-help to augment outpatient treatments by professionals. Eventually, Dr. Low’s lectures and practices evolved into the Recovery Method, a rigorous cognitive-behavioral training and meeting standard including readings, four-step examples, and “spotting” techniques. Recovery meetings are peer-led by trained, volunteer leaders who have experienced and benefitted from the RI Method themselves.
Recovery International, the 80-year-old nonprofit organization focused on mental health, has donated early organizational records and the personal papers of its founder, Dr. Abraham Low, to the University of Illinois Library of the Health Sciences-Chicago Special Collections and University Archives.
Among the records are nearly complete sets of newsletters and other publications (books, pamphlets, brochures, etc.), transcriptions of taped interviews with Abraham Low done not long before his death, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence of Low, his wife Mae Low and other key leaders, and more.
Born in Poland, educated in Vienna, and a practicing psychiatrist in New York prior to coming to Chicago, the archives include his diploma, medical license personal journals and other ephemera. Of special interest are his lectures and writings that constitute pioneering work in cognitive-behavioral therapy and methodology of peer-led support groups.
Today, Recovery International provides tools for people to deal with depression, anxiety, fear and various forms of mental illness. Each week, RI offers more than 450 meetings in 40 areas throughout the United States, Canada, Ireland, and Puerto Rico. Participants and members live in more than 20 countries throughout the world, with books available in English, Spanish and French. In addition to in-person meetings, we offer more than 30 phone, web, chat and Facebook meetings per week. For more information, visit www.recoveryinternational.org .