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Understanding Power
An Imperative for Human Services
Elaine Pinderhughes, Vanessa Jackson, and Patricia A. Romney
ISBN: 978-0-87101-505-1. 2017. Item #5051. 274 pages.
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Understanding Power: An Imperative for Human Services expands the perspective on the operation of power in the work of all human services providers. As a first reader on how power operates, this resource provides a base on which to build a more in-depth, detailed conceptualization as training or work progresses. The chapters in the book address the following: multilevel, bidirectional, recursive operation of power; effects of privilege, power, holding and subordination, and nonprivilege to empower and to disempower; and enhancing, transforming, constraining, and undermining people’s functioning.

This resource offers an opportunity to work toward building a metaview from which to address how power operates when it is just and to discover its potential for healing and helping people to find, discover, reclaim, or enhance their own power; to correct moral dissonance (particularly for power holders/ the privileged); to help people liberate themselves from debilitating negative self-esteem and disempowering, entrapping social roles; and to develop people’s ability to exercise power justly and effectively.


Monica McGoldrick


Chapter 1: Conceptualization of How Power Operates in Human Functioning

Elaine Pinderhughes

Chapter 2: Legacy and Aftermath: The Mechanisms of Power in the Multigenerational Transmission of Trauma

David Anderson Hooker

Chapter 3: Racial Shaming and Humiliation: Tools of Oppressive Power

Vanessa McAdams-Mahmoud

Chapter 4: Power-Based Therapy: Transforming Powerlessness into Power

Vanessa Jackson

Chapter 5: Tsalagi Spiral Conjurations in Ghost Country: Exploring Emergent Power Differentials with a Native American Client

Rockey Robbins, Scott Drabenstot, and Mollie Rischard

Chapter 6: The Power to Recover: Psychosocial Competence Interventions with Black Women

Lani V. Jones

Chapter 7: Culture, Power, and Resistance: Testimonies of Hope and Dignity

Makungu Akinyela

Chapter 8: Decolonizing Social Work Practice with Immigrants: The Power to (Re)define

Hye-Kyung Kang

Chapter 9: The Power to Create Equity and Justice

Patricia Romney

Chapter 10: The Joy of Sharing Power and Fostering Well-Being in Community Networks

Ramon Rojano

Chapter 11: Cash & Counseling: Empowering Elders and People with Disabilities to Make Personal Care Decisions

Kevin J. Mahoney and Erin E. McGaffigan

Chapter 12: Teaching Power beyond Black and White: Recognizing and Working with Student Resistance in Diverse Classrooms

John Tawa and Jesse J. Tauriac

Chapter 13: Discovering and Building RESPECT: A Relational Model Addressing Power and Difference in Medical Training

Carol Mostow

Chapter 14: Deconstructing Power to Build Connection: The Importance of Dialogue

Boston Institute for Culturally Affirming Practice (BICAP)

Chapter 15: Power and Research

Sarita Kaya Davis

Chapter 16: Re-methodologizing Research: Queer Considerations for Just Inquiry

Julie Tilsen

Chapter 17: Conclusion and Syllabus

Vanessa Jackson, Elaine Pinderhughes, and Patricia Romney

Elaine Pinderhughes, MSW, is professor emeritus at Boston College, having joined the faculty in 1975. Her 1989 textbook, Understanding Race, Ethnicity and Power: The Key to Efficiency in Clinical Practice, substantially changed the language of multiculturalism and human behavior in the practice arena and provided the rubric of culturally compe­tent practice across human services disciplines.

Vanessa Jackson, MSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, Soul Doula, and owner of Healing Circles, Inc., a healing practice based in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Jackson earned a master’s degree from Washington University, George Warren Brown School of Social Work. She is a nationally recognized speaker on mental health issues, with a focus on culturally conscious therapy and therapy with marginalized populations.

Patricia Romney, PhD, received her doctorate degree from the City University of New York, where she won the Bernard R. Ackerman Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Graduate Psychology. She completed her internship in consultation and education at the Yale University School of Medicine and did postgraduate study at the College of Execu­tive Coaching. Her current work is focused on consulting and coaching for excellence and equity in higher education.
The pernicious potential of power to destroy human lives - as still happens for all those groups oppressed by race, poverty, gender, and so on - is the reason we need a clear analysis of how power operates in our world. The editors and authors of this crucial and timely book have done us a great benefit in laying out a roadmap for our consideration on how to understand power in clinical practice.

Monica McGoldrick, PhD, MSW, LCSW

Director, Multicultural Family Institute

Highland Park, NJ