Oppdatert: 20. jul. 2021
EMPOWERMENT – PERSPECTIVES AND PRACTICE
Av, Luuk L. Westerhof, M.Sc
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Once, a little Indian boy lived with his grandma on a small ranch in the valley of No-no.
One day he went up in the mountains and encountered an abandoned eagle nest, that is, with just one little eagle chick left. The little boy was overwhelmed and consumed with compassion, and took the chick with him to grandma’s ranch. There he released it among the other chickens in the henhouse. The eagle chick grew up just like the rest of the chickens. He started to act like a chicken. He developed the same language as the other chickens. He ate like a chicken e.g.
One day there was a voice in his heart crying out “Look Up – Look Up!”
The eagle chick looked up. What he saw was without compare! He saw a creature soaring in majesty and power. A creature he had never seen before. When the other chickens saw that that creature up there infatuated the eagle chick, the other chickens flocked around him saying in unison: oh, do not make any high pretensions; you will never be that way, nevertheless become that way. Do not dream just be like us, a chicken.
Yet, the voice in the eagle chick’s heart cried out again “Look Up – Look Up”
Again, the eagle chick looked up, and again the completely chicken family flocked around him attempting to discourage, divert and de-motivate him. Yet in the heart of the eagle chick, curiosity awoke. He felt he strong desire to become like that mighty creature up there.
The eagle chick began to look at himself wondering why he actually looked different from all the other chickens. He started to spread his wings and felt that when he waved them, a power that he could not see where it came from or where it was heading was lifting him up. Suddenly he started ferociously flapping with his wings, instantly experiencing detachment from mother earth. More and more he distributed strength to his wings and found himself rising higher and higher. Suddenly he had ascended to such a height that he began to soar. Once he soared with the other eagle, he found out one important thing: being a chicken was not his real identity and nature.
He was an eagle!
Remember, we eat chickens never eagles!
The story about the eagle embodies in many ways what empowerment is all about.
Empowerment is about finding and, tapping into hidden resources that lay within you.
Empowerment is concerned about aiding an individual with his or her search for strength, courage, problem resolution i.e.
So what is empowerment? What role can empowerment play in the treatment of families?
One truth we can establish concerning empowerment is the fact that empowerment is a process that challenges our assumptions about the way things are and can be. It challenges our basic assumptions about power, helping, achieving, and succeeding.
Due to the limited nature of this essay, one is not able to go in full depth on the subject of empowerment. However, I will attempt to say something about accountability, empowerment, and critical consciousness. Moreover, I will say something about what kind of function they can have in the healing/helping process of families.
This essay addresses two empowerment positions that I recognize as useful in working with family systems: the empowerment therapeutic position, and the empowerment radical position.
In working with individuals and- or family systems in crisis, we need to be aware of the fact that, working with families within a family therapeutic context, demands a high degree of mutual trust. This trust must be based on the individuals and- or families free choice to engage in a therapeutic context.
It often occurs that one or more members of a family system are hesitant and- or resistant to engage in therapeutic activity. Resistance often based on a fatalistic concept of self and, on the idea that nothing can, or will help no matter what. From this perspective, empowerment can make its constructive contribution, in that it can become a productive tool in the endeavor to generate and attribute meaning to the intervention process.
After my estimation, the empowerment therapeutic position is useful in this essay since family therapy, in many ways, is a non-directional approach. There is no power exercised on the family system from a family therapeutic stance and from a therapist position.
The therapeutic context does not shake in any shape-or-form the issue concerning the balance of power between the therapist and his client(s). An essential point from an empowerment therapeutic stance is to redefine the role of the therapist from being a directional-oriented therapist to a conversationalist, positioned at an equal level with his clients(s), Askheim & Starin (2007).
I consider the radical empowerment position in this essay as useful, since it focuses on the coherence between an individual’s life situation and societal, structural conditions. The radical empowerment position embraces the concept of praxis which means reflection and action, related to an individual’s or group endeavor to bring about change in the environment in which he or she thrives. Another fundamental anchor embraced by the radical empowerment position is the attempt to generate self-confidence, increased knowledge, an expansion of personal skills and, the obtaining of a more functional concept of self. The radical empowerment position is valued as important in working with family systems since it dismisses the idea that an individual’s position is hereditary, but that the individual’s position is the product of a historical human created process.
In working with families within a therapeutic context, both the therapeutic empowerment position and, the radical empowerment position are beneficial, and should be considerate as constructive contributions to the field of family therapy.
2.0 EMPOWERMENT, GOALS AND DILEMMAS
Empowerment is a construct that links individual strengths and competencies, natural helping systems, and proactive behaviors to social policy and social change (Rappaport, 1981, 1984). Empowerment aims at linking individual well-being with the larger social and political environment. Empowerment compels the individual and- or group to think in terms of wellness versus illness, competence versus deficits, and strength versus weakness. Empowerment focuses on identifying capabilities rather than cataloging limitations and social problems. Empowerment intervention seeks to enhance wellness and aims at ameliorating problems, providing opportunities for participants to develop knowledge and skills and, to engage professionals as collaborators rather than authorative experts (Perkins et al. 1993).
Empowerment is “an intentional ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation, through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources” (Cornell Empowerment Group, 1989). Another definition comes from Rappaport (1987); a process by which people gain control over their lives, democratic participation in the life of their community. Empowerment includes both process and outcomes, suggesting that actions, activities, or structures may be empowering, and that the outcome of such processes result in a level of being empowered (Swift & Levin, 1987). Empowered outcomes refer to operationalizations of empowerment that allow one to observe the consequences of empowering processes. Individual empowerment outcomes may include situation-specific perceived control and resource mobilization skills (Perkins et al. 1993).
Yet another definition comes from Guiterrez (1990, p. 146, op. cit.): “A process of increasing interpersonal or political power so that individuals can take action to improve their life situation”. This last definition is interesting since it defines empowerment on three levels: the individual, group and political level. This implicitly means that aiding through empowerment is appropriate on all levels within the societal structure. With other words, empowerment addresses power dynamics in and between those three levels. Empowering processes for individuals may lead to participation in community organizations. At the organizational level, empowering processes might include collective decision-making and shared leadership. Empowering processes at the community level might include collective action to access government and other community services (e.g., media) (Perkins et al. 1995).
Empowerments objective is to contribute to an enabling process that compels individuals to take charge over their own life (Andersen et al., 2000). This implies that empowerment is a democratic process.
Robbins et al. (1998) provide us with the following definition: “Empowerment is a process by which individuals and groups gain power, access to resources and control over their own lives” (op. cit. p. 91).
(Staples, 1993, Ibid Andersen et al. 2000) describes empowerment as: “Empowerment er en process, hvor magt bliver udviklet, faciliteret eller stadfæstet med det formal, at underprivilegerede individer og grupper kan øge deres ressourcer, styrke deres selvbillede og oppbygge evne til at handle på egne vegne i psykologiske, sosiokulturelle, politiske og økonomiske områder”.
To gain control over one’s own life is a crucial point in empowerment theory (Andersen, et al., 2000, p. 14). This means that empowerment aims at helping people to gain control over significant factors and- or areas in their life, which keep them captive in a position of subjugation, dominance or powerlessness.
Empowerment with other words, aims at promoting a condition, in which an individual experiences control and meaning. Implicitly this means that empowerment is both a feeling and an action, and therefore crucial in an individual’s experience of having control over one’s own actions, social-interaction, and life. We can therefore conclude that from an empowerment perspective, the assumption is made that empowerment resides in the person, not the therapist or social worker etc. Empowerment is a process of increasing interpersonal and political power so that individuals can take appropriate action to improve their own lives.
When working from an empowerment perspective, one will bump into dilemmas. One of these dilemmas is the fact that working from an empowerment perspective can be a time-consuming adventure. Individuals and- or groups find themselves at different intra-psychological and interpersonal levels. Another dilemma that can be encountered is the issue of collaboration with other help-agencies that do not share parts or all of the empowerment approach as a legitimate tool in helping people to gain control over own life. Within a family therapeutic context, one can meet a dilemma in that sometimes individuals marginalized or not, assume the therapist to be in possession of all answers to life’s problems.
Taken all into consideration, we can understand empowerment in three guiding principles:
1 Empowerment is the process of giving power to clients in whatever ways possible- recourses, education political and self-awareness and so on (Thompson, 1993, ibid Askheim, 2005).
2 Empowerment is extending one’s ability to take effective decisions (Braye & Preston-Shoot, 1995, ibid Askheim 2003).
3 Empowerment helps people to regain their own power (Braye & Preston-Shoot, 1995, ibid Askheim 2003).
2.1 CRITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Two principles are fundamental within empowerment theory. These are critical consciousness and accountability. Due to their magnitude within the context of empowerment theory, and assumed importance within the family therapeutic arena, a description of those two is preferred.
According to Freire (1982), critical consciousness is defined as, the development of a critical awareness of how personal dynamics unfold within social and political contexts.
The process whereby therapists and clients develop critical consciousness is the first and required step toward empowerment and accountability. Anchored in the work of Paulo Freire (1982), concientizacion defined as the development of a critical awareness of how personal dynamics unfold within social and political contexts. Freire (1982) defined three levels of social consciousness: naïve, mythological, and critical. A naïve consciousness refers to a person who accepts his or her oppressed role as given, and is fatalistic about this role. A mythological consciousness refers to a person who recognizes oppression but reacts mostly based on his or her emotions (Korin, 1994). Postcolonial approaches emphasize the location of families with regard to colonization, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, and foster, as Freire puts it, concientizacion (critical consciousness and social action) within these areas. Social action requires a critique of the institutions wherein live unfolds, and joint efforts are made toward change within these institutions. The aspect of power, privilege, and oppression are context markers. These approaches acknowledge that the causes and- or consequences of some clinical problems reflect political, economic, and psychological oppression, and that experiences of oppression require public, institutional, and internal family process solutions (Prilleltensky, 1997).
Martin-Baro (1994) elaborated on the topic on how critical consciousness develops and its possible impact on people’s lives.
Through changing one’s reality, the acquiring of personal transformation is obtained
Through the gradual decoding of their world, people grasp the mechanisms of oppression and dehumanization. Critical consciousness of others and of the surrounding reality brings with it the possibility of a new praxis, which at the same time makes possible new forms for consciousness.
People’s new knowledge of their surrounding reality carries them to a new understanding of themselves and, most important, of their social identity. They begin to discover themselves in their mastery of nature, in their actions that transform things, in their active role in relation to others. (p. 40).
Critical consciousness within the field of family therapy is the process whereby the therapist, client(s) develop consciousness as a necessary step toward empowerment. Critical consciousness as understood in this context as the development of critical awareness of how personal dynamics unfold (Freire, 1982).
Through critical consciousness, the therapist and client(s) develop indispensable steps towards accountability and subsequently empowerment. Critical consciousness thus helps an individual to change his or her reality. It equips the individual with the opportunity of new praxis (see, p. 4), something that enables him or her to obtain new forms for consciousness (Freire, 1982). Critical consciousness imparts individuals with a new set of knowledge concerning their surrounding realities, something that disclose new understanding of self. Through the discovery of self, an individual may find him/herself enabled to go through personal transformation and, is more likely able to regain power to redefine his or her life. In addition, the individual is to be expected more able to transform things in his or her active role in relation to other individuals or groups.
The process of raising critical consciousness presupposes that when we transform ourselves, we concurrently transform our relationships with others that embrace us. This process entails looking at the self only in relation to others-that is, within concrete social and political locations. There is therefore no dichotomy between the personal and the institutional, rather an appreciation of the interweaving of the two. Through dialogue, connection, and social action, families remodel their lives.
Accountability encourages an individual to be accountable for his or her actions, values, and the changes in institutional traditions that he or she endorse. Accountability leads to the deconstruction of dominance in personal and family life, since it makes visible the patterns, values and strategies that uphold dominance. To disallow a person from being accountable is contributing to the upholding of power and privileges of dominant groups and persons, and therefore contributing to the perpetuation of oppression. Accountability addresses the issue of ownership. Who owns the problem? Who owns responsibility to bring about change, i.e. Accountability addresses the multiple institutions that maintain and perpetuate racism, sexism, domination, subjugation i.e. exploitation, and the ways that those forms of oppression are manifest in family life (Hernandez, P. 2003).
3.0 RADICAL AND THERAPEUTIC POSITION WITHIN EMPOWERMENT
3.1 THE RADICAL EMPOWERMENT POSITION
The radical position is concerned with the coherence between the individual/group life situation and the coherence between societal, political and structural issues (Askheim, 2003). This is what we call the vertical position, meaning that it takes into account societal external structural issues as possible problem and- or powerlessness producers.
It focuses on the dialectics between the individual’s life conditions and its subjective awareness and acting abilities to both, bring about change at an individual and societal level. The pivotal issue thus from a radical empowerment stance is the issue of “raising awareness”.
Fundamental from a radical empowerment position is the emphasis on the collective experience and universal needs. The radical empowerment position has its emphasis on what “rights” an individual/ group has in e.g. correlation to the right to define what help and assets is needed in order to acquire help.
The radical empowerment position is about the instigation of processes, activities i.e. that can contribute to increased self-control (Askheim, O.P & Starrin, B (in press Spring-07). The essence thus within the empowerment radical position is the generating of self-confidence, increased knowledge, an expansion of skills and, the obtaining of increased self-esteem. The radical position poses the idea that an individuals position within societal structures is not hereditary, but a result of historical human created processes. These human created processes determine the degree of power and- or powerlessness, and control the individuals experiences in his or her life. Since human beings generate and inaugurate these conditions, human beings too, can change them. In order to generate change from a radical empowerment position, the increase of critical consciousness is imperative.
The generating of critical consciousness is of great consequence in order to discover the causality between one’s own life situation and external societal conditions. Through the lens of the radical position within empowerment theory, critical consciousness serves as a generator for adequate action towards increased power, self-confidence, and self-control. Another pivotal and crucial concept within radical empowerment thinking is the idea that a subjugated individual is his own oppressor at the same time. In that case, the subject has become his own oppressor since he has internalized his oppressor’s concept of reality. With other words, the individual finds himself invaded and consumed by an understanding of reality that consumes and subjugates him (Freire, 1974, p. 21).
Another central concept in radical empowerment theory is the concept of “praxis”. The term praxis in radical empowerment theory stands for reflection and action, related to one’s endeavor to bring about change in the environment in which he or she thrives. The urge to pursue personal liberation anchor’s in raised awareness. Awareness within the radical position relates thus to the relationship between the subject and its collective environment. This implicitly means that the subject has to focus on the “here-and-now”. The subject must focus on for him familiar themes, and the contradictions those themes contain (Freire, 1974, p. 108).
3.2 THE EMPOWERMENT THERAPEUTIC POSITION
The therapeutic empowerment position aims at strengthening the individual. It focuses on equipping the individual with personal resources containing potential to the enabling of the individual to remove blockages omitting the realization and reaching of personal goals concerning equality, justice, and control. Within empowerment theory, this position is the horizontal position since it only is concerned with the intra-psychological process of an individual. It does not take into account external vertical societal issues as possible problem and- or powerless producers (Askheim, O.P & Starrin, B (in press Spring-07).The empowerment therapeutic position is wide-ranging perceived as being reductionistic, meaning that the empowerment process only is limited to an individual’s psychological awareness process, (Braye, 2000). In addition, the empowerment therapeutic position is perceived by some as “a pill acting for all seasons”, meaning that empowerment can be a kind of “quick-care political fix” (Braye, 2000). From an empowerment therapeutic stance, the issue of power and powerlessness, and the analysis of external processes that create power or powerlessness are absent.
From an empowerment therapeutic stance, one does not deliberate the political and collective dimensions that can pose power or powerlessness on the family system. This means that from an empowerment therapeutic stance, and in contradiction to the radical empowerment position, one does not focus on structural vertical external issues, such as imposed oppression catalyzed through societal process i.e., contributing to the marginalization and oppression of individuals or- and groups such as a family system.
This consequently means that empowerment from an empowerment therapeutic stance is to be seen as horizontal oriented, and non-political.
The therapeutic empowerment position is concerned with restraining and- or ignoring the issue of vertical power dimensions as possible producers of power and- or powerlessness. From a therapeutic empowerment stance, empowerment is understood individually oriented, not taking into account possible vertical issues (see, the radical empowerment position), that can contribute to a state of power and- or powerlessness. The therapeutic empowerment position is not, considered with communal and- or political dimensions: it is “non-political”. The therapeutic empowerment position does not challenge the power-balance between the helper and those that receive help. From a therapeutic empowerment stance, empowerment that enable a person or- and group to perform adequately according to understood needs is the issue and thus essential. The therapeutic empowerment position aims at strengthening the individual and- or group. It seeks ways in which it can educate individuals and- or groups in obtaining a position of empowerment. The therapeutic empowerment position seeks ways in which it can give support to the individual / group to facilitate a position in which it can be in charge over own life situation and, seeks ways through which it can promote health, on the intra-psychological level.
4.0 WHAT IS FAMILY THERAPY?
From its inception, the family therapy movement emerged as a radically different way to address the tasks of healing in the mental health field (Ackerman, 1937; Bowen, 1978; Haley, 1963). Family therapy approaches developed a more complex articulation of issues of power, history, and context in the therapeutic process. Family therapy recommends that the therapist consistently attend to their clients’ diversity of backgrounds, experiences of oppression and privilege, as a fundamental part of the healing endeavor. Family therapy seeks and facilitates ways in which it can catalyze individual liberation as a key to help/healing. Liberation is a system of healing that embraces’ critical consciousness and empowerment as guiding principles. Empowerment within the field of family therapy is thus instrumental, in that it aims at supporting families in finding solutions that liberate them from whatever is hindering the family from functioning adequate.
Family therapy as a therapeutic approach is circular of nature. Circular in that it considers itself to be unproductive, superficial and inadequate, if not all parts that make up the whole (the territory is not identical with the map!) are measured as possible problem and- or powerlessness producers.
This means that it is considered with, and focuses on, both horizontal (intra-personal level), and vertical (external structural, societal levels e.g.) aspects within the context of family therapy in its endeavor to reach problem resolve. This e.g. in contrast to the empowerment therapeutic position in which one is focusing on the horizontal conditions, not taking into deliberation the possible vertical aspects that can produce and- or execute a sense of powerlessness on the members of the family unit.
From a family therapeutic perspective, family dynamics and- or problems are considered circular of origin. Lineal thinking is by choice excluded in most cases. From a circular approach, structural external societal issues, such as marginalization, oppression e.g. can thus contribute to the imposing of a sense of powerlessness, helplessness, lethargy, temporarily psychological paralysis i.e. on the members of the family, thus posing a potential sense of disempowerment on the family system and its members.
The raising of critical consciousness, accountability, and awareness concerning external societal issues are, considered important within the frame of family therapy, since they to a high degree will influence family dynamics. Important because they are aiming at helping families to achieve help/healing, and the repossession of personal power through the employment, and implementation of empowerment tools such as raised awareness, accountability and critical consciousness.
5.0 EMPOWERMENT AS A TOOL IN FAMILY THERAPY
From Freire’s point of view, empowerment has to do with asking crucial problem posing questions. Within the context of family therapy, the therapist exhorts participants to reach meaningful answers to their problems through critical questioning. Posing crucial critical questions expose ethical topics, which challenge issues within the family system.
The therapist position in helping families to obtain help/healing must be that of a catalyst, aiding the family in advocating upcoming, problem posing issues, which the family deems as most critical.
Wallerstein, (1992) defines empowerment as “A social-action process” that promotes participation of people, organizations and communities towards the goal of increased individual and community control, political efficacy, improved quality of community life, and social justice”.
Through the lens of this definition, the task of a therapist in aiding the family to obtain healing and a position of empowerment is to engage family members through a circular dialogue oriented process in identifying their unresolved and problem posing issues.
Identifying issues that impose powerlessness, helplessness, social, cultural (interracial relationships e.g.), and historical problems on the family system.
The identifying of issues that assess and expose root causes of unresolved and unaddressed problems. An assessment of the problems, that probably plunges a family into conflict and indeterminate state, and upsetting and undermining family homeostasis, and equilibrium. Problems that inherently have rendered some or all family members powerless, helpless and sometimes even oppressed.
By addressing problem-posing issues properly the development and implementation of action-oriented strategies to change, healing and, empowerment can take place.
Implicitly to the former, the raising of awareness and accountability concerning problem-posing issues is significant.
Critical consciousness is obtainable through recursive crucial questioning. According to Freire (1982), critical consciousness is the prerequisite to empowerment. It is when family members become conscious and aware of the underlying causality to family problems that family members extend their ability to take useful decisions, Askheim (2003).
Useful decisions that hold the power and potential to generate and employ lasting resolve to problematical family issues.
Raising critical consciousness is aiming at raising critical awareness.
According to Freire (1982), awareness is necessary in order to understand personal dynamics.
Within the field of family therapy, the understanding of personal intra-psychological dynamics are critical to change and empowerment. It is when one understands the “whys” behind logical and- or illogical dysfunctional behavior, that strategies can be developed leading to alteration of dysfunctional behavior, channeling help/healing and empowerment to the family system. Alternation of dysfunctional patterns and behavior through raised consciousness and awareness instigates the possibility of increased awareness concerning one’s own strengths and resources.
When awareness deems concerning personal strengths and resources, the individual than can encounter power; thus, feeling empowered.
Helping members within the family system to tap into their own power, resources, and personal strength is in consensus with Askheim’s definition of empowerment: Helping people to regain their own power, Askheim (2003).
The liberation of strength and resources emerge whenever an individual is able to reinstate power in his or her life.
5.1 EMPOWERMENT AS A TOOL IN FAMILY THERAPY CONCERNING THE ISSUE OF SUBJUGATION
The process of raising critical consciousness and empowerment are closely related. The narrative approach refers to the empowerment process as “resulting from one person having the experience of another person accepting and collaboratively elaborating what she has to say” (Weingarten & Cobb, 1995, p. 1). Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy using narrative means to reach therapeutic ends. Narrative therapy finds ways of developing insight into stories of the client’s life. A therapist using narrative therapy is interested in the history of their client. The therapist searches for an in depth account of the problem(s) that are affecting the client’s life. Narrative therapy aims at helping the client “re-authoring” or “re-storying” their experiences. These descriptions emphasize that the stories of people’s lives are central to an understanding of the individual (Morgan, 2000).
The empowering dimension of these therapeutic approaches stems from the mutual creation of meaning in which the therapist takes a key position stimulating the reconstruction of the client’s life stories. This mutual creation requires that the therapists acknowledge their location in the social world in terms of gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and the implications of these social locations. It also requires that therapists acknowledge the contribution of the therapeutic interaction to their own lives.
The abolishing of subjugation reaches its conclusion whenever an individual becomes aware with regard to the origin and causality of subjugation. Only then, can behavior that paves the way for new and more advantageous life-situations be established and reached (Freire, 1999 p. 28). Through increased awareness concerning the causality of subjugation, an individual is more probable to experience a state of empowerment through which he can obtain self-realization.
It is therefore significant to an individual’s quest for personal liberation that he gains knowledge with regard to which his oppressor really is (Freire, 1999 p. 30). A state of disempowerment can maintain in the life of a subject, because the subjugated subject has internalized the mindset and nature of his oppressor (Freire, 1999 p.p. 26, 29). Due to the subject’s adaptation to, and internalization of the oppressor’s mindset and nature, the subject is more prone to copy this behavior when he is self in a position of power, meaning that the subject will experience a state of oppression and turns into the oppressor of self (Freire, 1999 p. 25).
5.2 EMPOWERMENT AS A TOOL IN FAMILY THERAPY CONCERNING THE ISSUE OF DOMINANCE
Families are open systems vulnerable to all of the dimensions of domination and subjugation that operate in the larger society. Therefore, to avoid reinforcing oppressive realities within the practice of family therapy, therapists need to recognize and challenge the ways in which societal patterns of domination are weaved into the fabric of family life and the therapeutic endeavor (Hare-Mustin, 1994). It is important that therapists seek to dismantle patterns of domination within the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and e.g. family system, and that those individuals become cognizant of the many complex manifestations of such patterns. Through this kind of therapeutic work, clients and therapists alike confront their participation in systems of dominance. The clearer we are about this participation, the more actively we confront our moral obligation to interrupt its perpetuation. Silence concerning this topic will contribute to the upholding of power and privileges of dominant groups, and therefore perpetuate oppression.
Through the process of critical circular questioning, critical consciousness emerges, consequently leading to raised awareness. Raised awareness concerning the issue and patterns of dominance enables the individual and- or family system to develop strategies to the abolishing of dominance.
We can conclude that the empowerment therapeutic position is not considered with vertical structural external societal issues that affect and- or challenges the intra-relational and intra-psychological structures of members of the family. The empowerment therapeutic position is a horizontal approach, meaning that it surfaces primarily on an individual intra-psychological level. External vertical structures are not considered as, probable producers of powerlessness, psychological paralysis, and oppression e.g. The empowerment therapeutic position has its weakness within the context of family therapy since it does not analyze external process that instigates power or powerlessness. The weakness of the empowerment therapeutic position lays in the fact that members of a family system can experience problems associated to the issues of subjugation, power and oppression imposed vertically on the family system and its members.
We too, can conclude that the empowerment therapeutic position has its strength within the family therapeutic context, since it seeks ways to strengthening the individual, attempting to equip the individual with personal resources containing power to eradicate blockages that stand in the way for personal realization.
We can assume the radical empowerment position to be an important and vital contribution to the field of family therapy and, to the family therapeutic arena since it is circular of nature. The radical empowerment position is understood to be constructive in family therapy since it focuses on the coherence between the individuals life situation and, the societal vertical structural conditions in which the individual and- or family system thrives.
Another eminent contribution to the field of family therapy comes from the radical empowerment position’s concept of praxis. The concept of praxis aims at promoting reflection and action. Within the frame of family therapy, action resulting in reflection is advantageous in order to reach sought-after therapeutic ends. Another important feature in radical empowerment theory is the hypothesis that an individual’s position is not hereditary but a product of human created processes. I reckon this concept as both strength and a weakness. A strength since it points out an individual’s responsibility to find solutions for co-created and co-authored problems. A weakness in that an individual can experience powerlessness, due to hereditary physical, psychological and, social ailments/dysfunction. In such case, the radical empowerment approach can be perceived as condemning and thus turning into a contra-productive therapeutic tool.
From a family therapeutic perspective, both empowerment positions contain valuable contributions within the context of family therapy. It hands the therapist therapeutic markers that can be considered helpful in his endeavor to help families to obtain help/healing and, individual empowerment.
Due to the holistic nature of family therapy, both empowerment positions contain elements e.g. critical consciousness, accountability, empowerment and, the concept of praxis i.e., that can be incorporated in the family therapeutic context as complementary tools.
Empowerment used as therapeutic tool, is obtainable through critical questioning, raised awareness and the concept of praxis. When individuals has become aware of what is producing powerlessness in their life’s and- or family system they can start with the formulation of personal/family strategies that consequently will lead to problem-resolve. Individuals are presumably able to pursue healing/help to problem-resolve, when they experience liberation that enables them to tap into their strengths, resources, and power. Tapping into these prerequisites of empowerment, power than, and a sense of being empowered emerges.
Empowered individuals within the family system are more likely to contribute with what is necessary to obtain healing than individuals that feel disempowered.
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