Steven P. Segal
Social workers are increasingly working in authoritative settings—that is, settings where they have the power to mandate conformity by the client to the normative and often legal requirements of the organization. Such settings may be residential, such as jails, prisons, and rehabilitation facilities, or community-based organizations that are part of the criminal justice system, the mental health system, the health system, and the child welfare system. The exercise of power derived from the authority vested in the setting’s objectives may and often does alter the total life situation of an individual, such as when a client is compelled to move to supervised care without the client’s consent. Under an outpatient civil commitment order or mental health court supervision, the patient may be told where to live and with whom to associate as well as be required to participate in interactive treatment and to take medication. In authoritative settings, social workers are working with “involuntary” clients—clients who understand, whether or not it is explicitly stated, that the social worker possesses the power to effect unwanted change in their life circumstance. Since the early 1990s, the field has been developing new ideas and skills that are equally useful in working with voluntary and involuntary clients. In the process, social worker authority is now viewed less as a way to gain client compliance and, instead, is understood more as an opportunity to build partnerships with clients that lead to changes that are enduring and more meaningful to clients.
Ruth J. Parsons and Jean East
The concept of empowerment has deep roots in social work practice. Building upon the work of empowerment theorists of the 1980s and 1990s and applied broadly in the 2000s [Itzhaky and York (2000), Social Work Research, 24, 225–234; Travis and Deepak (2011), Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 20, 203–222], the concept of empowerment has evolved from a philosophical level to practice frameworks and methods. Substantial research confirms empowerment outcomes as personal, interpersonal, and sociopolitical. Practice interventions contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Social work relationships provide an opportunity for experiencing power and collaboration. Empowerment interventions are often useful with vulnerable populations, such as women and members of stigmatized groups.
Judith A. Davenport and Joseph Davenport, III
Rural social work, whose history stretches back a century, has been revitalized since the mid-1970s. Definitions, typologies, and characteristics of rurality are provided, which serve as a framework for rural practice, policy, and research concerns. A primary focus is on those concerns differentiating rural from urban social work. Social workers interested in additional information are given basic references, as well as material on the National Rural Social Work Caucus, the annual National Institute on Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas, the electronic journal, and the online listserv.
Supervision of students and practitioners has been important to social work since its earliest evolution as a recognized profession. Central to the process is the idea of one professional with more knowledge, skill, and experience guiding the practice and development of another with less. The four content areas of supervision usually include direct practice, professional impact, job management, and continued learning. There are a number of supervision models, and most emphasize a positive supervisor–supervisee working relationship, a parallel process, and the importance of cultural competency. The emergence of Evidence-Based Practices and Trauma-Informed Practices has also influenced supervision. The contemporary context of social work supervision offers both opportunities and challenges to clinical supervision.