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Mental health service user's social and individual empowerment: using theories of power to elucidate far-reaching strategies

By Steve Masterson and Sara Owen


Background: There has been overwhelming interest in the goal of service user empowerment within Western health and social care over the past two decades. Empowerment is particularly important for mental health service users, given the often extremely dis-empowering psychological effects of mental health problems. Aim: Despite widespread use of the term, conceptual ambiguity undermines efforts to put mental health service user empowerment into practice. Arguably any discussion of empowerment will be superficial without an examination of power itself, given the obvious connection between the two. The aim of this paper is to explore the concept of empowerment with reference to power. Method: Literature review. Results: Whilst not attempting a rigid definition of power or empowerment, this paper explores the concepts' varied use within the health and social care literature, particularly that relating to mental health and psychiatry, and demonstrates how power theories can be used to critique the validity and usefulness of the empowerment concept. Conclusions: The paper concludes with a discussion of the “recovery” model, arguing that the success of any empowerment strategy depends upon the acceptance of this discourse as a successor to the dominant discourse of medico-psychiatr

Topics: B760 Mental Health Nursing
Publisher: Routledge / Taylor & Francis
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1080/09638230500512714
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