Empowerment and Strengths-Based Perspective: Social Work

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Empowerment and a strengths perspective which support the development of innate abilities and recognize differences in a positive manner are also helping social workers increase the individual client’s capacity to learn to use his or her own systems constructively

More than a simple linguistic nuance, the notion that social workers do not empower others, but instead, help people empower themselves is an ontological distinction that frames the reality experienced by both social workers and clients (Simon, 1990, p. 32, quoted in Saleeby, 2006, p. 98)

Introduction:
This paper firstly looks at empowerment, what it is, and how it can assist social workers in enhancing their client’s competence through development of self-efficacy, mastery, and their ability to use their own resources (both inner and outer) in a productive and beneficial manner. The paper then looks at the Strengths Perspective and how social workers can use this lens to assist clients in re-framing their sense of self, and therefore enhance their client’s capacity for self-determination. The paper then looks at empowerment and the Strengths Perspective in action, through the utilization of Solution Focused theory.

In this paper it is argued that the action of empowerment is fundamental to the application of a strengths perspective. It is also argued that a positive recognition of ‘difference’, such as for those experiencing mental health issues, or who may be gay or lesbian for example, can assist clients in normalizing their lived experience.

Empowerment:
Empowerment is both a theory and a practice. It is also a process as well as an outcome (Zimmerman, 1995; Gutierrez, DeLois and GlenMaye, 1995; Carr, E.S., 2003).

The practice of empowerment grew out of the women’s and black rights movements of the United States in the late 60s/70s where it was recognised that these two powerless/oppressed groups did not have equal access to human services. This had a negative effect both at



References: Cohen, B-Z, 1999, Intervention and Supervision in Strengths-Based Social Work Practice, Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, Vol 80, No 5, pp. 460-66 Cowger, C Pease, B., 2002, Rethinking Empowerment: A Postmodern Reappraisal for Emancipatory Practice, British Journal of Social Work, No. 32, pp. 135-47 Rapp, R Wartel, S., G., 2003, A Strengths-Based Practice Model: Psychology of Mind and Health Realization, Families in Society, Vol. 84, No. 2, pp.185-191 Weick, A., J Weick, A., C. Rapp, A. Sullivan and W. Kisthardt, 1989, A Strengths Perspective for Social Work Practice, Social Work, 89, pp. 350-354 Zimmerman, M., 1995, Psychological Empowerment: Issues and Illustrations, American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol

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