Analysis of 33 instances of recovery or improvement among 92 women with anxiety, and 49 instances of recovery and improvement among 67 episodes of depression, showed that recovery and improvement, when compared with conditions not changing, were associated with a prior positive event. Such events were characterised by one or more of three dimensions: the ‘anchoring’ dimension involved increased security; ‘fresh-start’, increased hope arising from a lessening of a difficulty or deprivation; and ‘relief’, the amelioration of a difficulty not involving any sense of a fresh start. Events characterised by anchoring were more often associated with recovery or improvement in anxiety, and those characterised as fresh-start were associated with recovery or improvement in depression. Recovery or improvement in both disorders was more likely to be associated with both anchoring and fresh-start events. The study involved the reworking of some social and clinical material, and although done blind should be seen as exploratory.