Social Work Empowerment Theory

1436 Words Apr 24th, 2006 6 Pages
As an undergrad social work student at University of Texas-Arlington we are taught how to become a generalist social worker. Becoming a generalist social worker will provide us with a broad range of skills to work with micro, mezzo and macro groups from all different ethnicities, ages, and religions. Professors here at UTA teach us many different models and theories that we can use as tools to work with our clients or groups successfully.

A newer social work perspective that I would like to discuss in this paper is the empowerment approach. The empowerment theory gained legitimacy as a paradigm back in 1981 by Julian Rappaport who discussed this paradigm in his Presidential Address at the American Psychological Association. He stated,
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It is not always the case that empowerment is the correct approach, my situation could have easily gone the opposite direction and I could have felt even more powerless and helpless than before. After the apartment situation the empowerment process failed for me in a different struggle but knowing that it has worked before gives me confidence that it can work again given the right circumstances.

It is especially important to know how different age groups react to the empowerment approach. In a research study of the empowerment approach towards various age groups ranging from juveniles to elderly there was a great variance in what outcomes the empowerment paradigm concluded. Elderly clients were more focused on improvements in their state of health, conditions in their living quarters, social networks, financial situation and relations with family and friends. Middle Aged persons associated empowerment with their progress toward economic independence. Only the teenage group was not focused on concrete outcomes from the empowerment process, as one teen stated in the research study, "Empowerment is the personal capability to manage my life, based on interior sincerity and freedom...Empowerment is the feeling of being free...To be free means to be free of others who influence you too much and free to have the courage to do what you really want to do" (Boehm & Staples pg. 453).

This idea is that empowerment is the way from dependency to independence,
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