Practitioners' perceptions of empowerment

Barry J. Ackerson, W. David Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term "empowerment" has been widely adopted in social work and other areas of contemporary culture, yet its meanings are not clearly agreed upon. This article discusses the various uses of this term in both the social-work and mental-health literature. These conceptualizations are then compared with the results of a small qualitative study, in which practitioners from the Deep South discussed their understandings of the meaning of empowerment. Central to their ideas about empowerment were a set of paradoxes and redundancies with other constructs, especially self-determination. Although the concept of empowerment had heuristic value, it was most relevant for work with individuals, rather than larger social forces. While this is in contrast to the broader use of this term in the theoretical literature, it is consistent with other literature about practitioners' views of this vaguely defined term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalFamilies in Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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