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3.3 Empowering clients

There are explicit and implicit similarities between various different definitions of empowerment and more specific empowering clients. They can be formalised into seven core components of empowerment:
  • self-efficacy - one’s belief that a situation may be changed or influenced;
  • participation and collaboration - a collaborative relationship between help-seeker and help giver
  • sense of control - change is attributed to the actions of the person concerned
  • meeting personal needs - the needs and aspirations of the person are addressed in ways which make them more capable and more competent
  • understanding the environment - the person is able to make a critical analysis of the services, structures and sources of (both formal and informal) support in their environment
  • personal action - there are opportunities to express empowerment in different ways
  • access to resources - resources might include friends and relatives, community groups and organisations, service supports and self –help groups.

It is important to empower clients for a variety of reasons: It enables to recognize their strengths and abilities and perform on their own. It enables them to solve problems in the future on their own and successfully.

There are a variety of strategies to empower clients. Some examples are:
  • Challenge stereotypes. See your clients as people rather than labels -- of diagnosis, gender, class, race, physical or intellectual ability or sexual preference.
  • While challenging stereotypes, do not overlook that your client might be a member of an oppressed group. Let them know that you are open to talking about any issues they may have relating to their perception of how they are viewed by society.
  • Set up an egalitarian rather than hierarchical relationship. Treat your clients as collaborators. Brainstorm together.
  • Listen to their viewpoint on etiology.
  • Ask for and listen to their "solutions." (If not a complete solution, the germ of a solution may be present.)
  • Rather than solving their problems, teach them how to do so
  • Discuss the rationale for your decisions and interventions. Do they agree? Obtain their informed consent on strategies to change.
  • Recognize the role of context on their behavior and help them see it -- rather than blaming them inappropriately for their problems.
  • Listen to their view on the world and learn from them.
  • Etc.

Read more on:

J.M Slattery, department of psychology, Clarion University – Pennsylvania - USA

Client-centred empowering partnering in nursing, D. Brown, C Mc William, C. Ward-Griffin, Journal of Advanced Nursing, (V 53-2), 2006

The community power pack, Department of communities & local government, 2008

Empowering communities to influence local decision making: a systematic review of the evidence, June 2009

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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