- As part of the emerging recovery paradigm, there is an increasing need for psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation to be strengths–based and to be driven by the desires and preferences of the person with mental illness. Yet if mental illness is a brain disease, it is not at all clear how these characteristics contribute to improvement in the person’s condition or influence the course and outcome of the disorder. To avoid these aspects being relegated to the role of nonspecific factors, the field must develop an understanding of the role of strengths and interests in recovery. To contribute to this effort, we review the existing empirical research on the protective and stress–buffering effects of positive life events and qualitative data on the importance of play and pleasure in the lives of people with mental illness. We conclude by considering briefly the implications of this research for clinical practice.