The concept of empowerment has become increasingly popular with mental health professionals. But while it is a frequently cited goal in the helping professions, empowerment is often nothing more than a buzzword that lacks specificity and grounding in real-world applications. Consequently, little practical guidance exists demonstrating how to achieve it in specific instances with specific groups of people. This book is the first professional guide that operationalizes the theory of empowerment, outlines the conditions under which it is likely to occur, and applies a practical model for working with people with severe mental illness.
In this unique and thoroughly researched volume, Donald Linhorst analyzes the conditions that facilitate empowerment and provides the framework necessary to bolster this historically powerless population's access to the material and cultural resources they need to regain control of their lives. Chapters illustrate how to foster empowerment in treatment planning, housing selection, organizational decision making, mental health service planning and policy making, employment, participation in research and evaluation, and consumer provision of mental health and support services. Case studies from a public psychiatric hospital and a community mental health agency illustrate each of the seven areas and present evidence of the model's efficacy. Finally, the book maps out the roles that service providers, administrators, policy makers, advocacy groups, researchers, and clients can play in the empowerment process.
Checklists, step-by-step instructions, historical overviews, and vivid examples make this a valuable teaching tool, planning guide, and everyday reference for mental health professionals seeking an innovative and evidence-based approach to working with their clients with severe mental illness.
Reviewer:Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description:This book describes how to empower individuals suffering from severe and persistent mental illness. It is a practical guide, providing a step-by-step approach to helping the mentally ill make choices and decisions for their own well-being instead of others doing it for them.
Purpose:According to the author, "the purpose of this book is to examine pragmatically the opportunities for and limitations to empowerment among adults with severe mental illness who, historically, have lacked power and have been the focus of stigma and discrimination." Dr. Linhorst continues, "My central premise is that despite significant limitations to empowerment, people with severe mental illness can be empowered when certain conditions are met." The book definitely meets the author's objectives.
Audience:According to the author, "it is my intention that this book will be useful to those who want to move beyond the rhetoric of empowerment to address limitations to empowerment and create meaningful opportunities for empowering people with severe mental illness." A little later, he specifies the target audience: "As such, this book should be of interest to people with mental illness who serve in leadership positions in mental health and advocacy organizations, to families of people with mental illness who advocate for improved mental health services and policies, to mental health professionals who provide treatment and rehabilitation services, to researchers, to administrators, to national mental health advocacy organizations and their state and local affiliates, to policy makers, and to people interested in the general topic of empowerment of vulnerable populations." Dr. Linhorst is Associate Professor of Social Work in the School of Social Service at Saint Louis University. He has worked for 13 years with people suffering with severe mental illness.
Features:The book describes empowerment of the mentally ill from many different perspectives. Dr. Linhorst begins by talking historically of how the mentally ill were dealt with in the United States, beginning in the Colonial Era and going forward to the present day. He then develops the premise of how to empower individuals suffering from severe mental illness through treatment planning, housing, and employment, to mention a few. These chapters provide specific guidelines and some case studies. This book is very easy to read but addresses an important topic. When the clients are able to be a part of the decision making, they are more invested in the process. This book forces the reader to consider talking with the client about life outside of the hospital, and he/she can be given options to choose from. There are limitations to this process but the author has written a nice chapter on conditions for empowerment (chapter four) and ends the book on a positive note: "This state of people with mental illness living an empowered life is dynamic and situational. People with mental illness can be empowered in some areas of their lives and not others. ...Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us to continually work to create opportunities for empowerment, and to develop and maintain the conditions for empowerment so that these opportunities can be realized. People who are empowered lead fulfilling and productive lives despite having a mental illness, which in turn benefits society as a whole."
Assessment:This book is inspiring and encourages me to continue to "empower" the chronically mentally ill. I work with individuals suffering from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder and realize how difficult the work really is. But the book gives hope that change is possible for some individuals. Dr. Linhorst has really given us a practical guide to treatment and how to involve, i.e. empower, clients to make choices about their lives.