Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to summarise two 2014 research papers that highlight the role of social interactions and the social world in recovery in the context of mental distress. Design/methodology/approach: The author summarise two papers: one is about two theories from social psychology that help us understand social identity – our sense of who we are. The other brings together and looks at the similarities and differences between ten different therapies that can be called resource-oriented – that is, they focus on people's strengths and resources rather than what is wrong with them. Findings: The paper on social identity gives a convincing case for incorporating teaching about social identity – and the social groups to which people belong – into the training of mental health professionals. The paper on resource-oriented therapies suggests that social relationships are a main component of all ten therapies examined. This second paper suggested a need for more research and theory relating to resource-oriented therapies. Social identity theory could help address this issue. Mental health services may be able to help people more by focusing on their established and desired social identities and group-belonging, and their strengths, than is usual. Originality/value: These two papers seem timely given the growing recognition of the role of social factors in the development and maintenance of mental distress. More attention to social factors in recovery could help make it more self-sustaining.