Empowerment Theory In Social Work

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According to the National Alliance of Social Workers (NASW), social justice is one of the primary ethics which social workers must uphold. Empowerment is a social work theory rooted in social justice, with a main goal of reducing social inequalities through community building and redistribution of access to power. The basic premise of empowerment is "to change the environment, change yourself" (Van Wormer & Besthorn, pg. 212). However, in order to change one 's environment or self, there must be options available and opportunities for individuals to have control over their own decisions. Empowerment theory also aims to build community through citizen participation, collaboration and engagement among community members. This theory also seeks…show more content…
Modern social workers are frequently tasked with certain objectives by their agencies, which leave little room for any work beyond specific treatments and timeframes (Gitterman & Knight, 2016). Although social workers are bound to the set of ethics put forth by the NASW, practitioners are often limited to focusing on the issues of the individual rather than the larger societal issues that may be behind those concerns. Additionally, many social work students end up working in direct practice, rather than macro work. There is a need for social workers to engage at the macro level in order to facilitate community organization and empowerment.
Critics suggest this theory may not take into account the unique experiences of each individual and perhaps key characteristics of the individual or group are not taken into consideration (Sadan, 1997). Although empowerment theory is intended to alleviate the oppression of marginalized groups, there are no specific guidelines or procedures for doing so (Gutierrez et al., 1995). As a result, this theory may prove to be too abstract for some practitioners, as there are no specific processes for implementing empowerment in an individual, group, or community and it is a more open-ended
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Empowerment theory and macro social work typically appear in the form of grassroots organizing (Gitterman & Knight, 2016). Both social work students and practitioners tend to work on the mezzo or micro level with individuals, families, and/or small groups, rather than within larger communities (Gitterman & Knight, 2016). Community organization is not possible if one person attempts to create change alone. A group of like-minded people must make a concentrated effort to instigate change in a community. Groups must have open communication and an understanding of the common goal. Therefore, an increase in the knowledge and understanding of macro practices could lead to more involvement with the organization and thus the empowerment of

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