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Understanding Power
An Imperative for Human Services
Elaine Pinderhughes, Vanessa Jackson, and Patricia A. Romney, Editors
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 non-privilege to empower and to disempower; and enhancing, transforming, constraining, and undermining people’s functioning.

This resource offers an opportunity to work toward building a meta-view 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.
Foreword by 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
Understanding Power was reviewed by Nicole Marcum for the journal Social Work.

Power operates as a dynamic force that leaves no area of life untouched, influencing individuals, families, communities, and institutions. Despite its great influence on society, professionals working in human services are often oblivious to their own power and privilege, their impact on the therapeutic relationship, and how the lack of acknowledgment and dialogue contributes to the marginalization of certain individuals and groups. “Power matters for those who have it and for those who lack it. Power matters because it affects one's ability to secure desired outcomes (including the satisfaction of basic human needs to control and to belong)” (p. 8).

The editors to Understanding Power: An Imperative for Human Services begin the book with a thorough overview of power dynamics and theories of power relations, targeted toward human services practitioners across disciplines (that is, social workers, psychologists, counselors, occupational and physical therapists, and medical professionals). The book then elaborates further on the various ways that power relations manifest and present in clients seeking care across human services settings. After establishing exigency for creating an understanding of power, the editors point out that “few social workers have been trained to analyze power dynamics, and even fewer have been given the space to struggle with power. . . as part of their professional training” (p. xiii). This book attempts to provide curriculum and pertinent information to create opportunities for human services professionals to grow and learn in a variety of settings, such as continuing education units, job trainings, supervision, and undergraduate and graduate classrooms.

Read the full review. Available to subscribers of Social Work.