Revisit “Empowerment”: its new context and meaning to counselling profession
in the New Millennium

first outline the global changes and the problem contexts in the new century.    Some
observations on the shifts or change...
is creating problems as much as it is solving them. It does not guarantee a promising
future. He summarized five undesirab...
The task is to ameliorate present damage more than prepare and develop for the
future. For public sector, the problem of t...
growth could be the key for the future. The values changes expressed in various
forms: the urge for democracy in some east...
collaboration and Networking are keys to interdependent culture, Covey (1989) also
develops a win-win strategy with focus ...
minority awareness and reinvention of initiation of people with different
backgrounds of us. The forth is focus on the pre...
as a way to the preferred future. As a mission-directed strategy, he suggested a
re-examination of tradition theories in o...
adaptation, recent development of adventure therapy sees learning with
developmental perspective.

      Mcleod (2000) ou...
Regarding with the practices of empowerment, new forms of counselling
organization are emerging with the central theme is ...
profession could not be isolated from the global trend. Rather, as a vehicle to
achieve the Planetism vision, it should re...
Corey, G (1997). Theory and Practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy. USA:
   Brooks / Cole
Drucker, Peter F....
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Revisit “Empowerment”: its new context and meaning to counselling profession in the New Millennium


Published on

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Revisit “Empowerment”: its new context and meaning to counselling profession in the New Millennium

  1. 1. Revisit “Empowerment”: its new context and meaning to counselling profession in the New Millennium CHAN Kwok-bong ( ) The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong Aug, 2000 Introduction In the modern society, the economical advancement and the growth of information technology open up vast opportunities for individual autonomy. However, with these advancements, the world is becoming globalized and the society is growing with increasing complexity that our individual autonomy will become increasingly powerless. Eyllard (1998) asserted that in reacting with these changes “fears are common, hopes are scare.” People in general felt that new social problems are emerged in the new millennium could no longer lead to promising future. Theobaid (1997) even asserted that the past successes have led us to collective future failure. To thrive, but not only to survive, in the new millenium, it requires us to have new eyes on our past experiences, or new paradigms to re-create our past experiences, for our present and future lives. Ellyard (1998) believes that a new global paradigm is needed and it should embody the synthesis and hybridization of the old and the emerging new. Theobaid (1997) suggests new type of communitarian communities to reworking successes in the future. Ellyard (1998) developed the new paradigm of Planetism for the new millennium. These writers suggest a re-creation of the communitarian and interdependent culture that empowers us and enlightens our humanity to create a future. They further suggest changes of our roles and our mindsets, as well as the development of new mission-oriented strategies to reach the possible future. These all create new context, meanings and challenges for the counselling profession. To thrive in the future, counselling profession should not only prescribe these global changes as new tasks for counsellors. It creates new meanings of the counselling profession. The global paradigm shift thus creates new context for the evolution of counselling profession at present and in the new century. In this paper, I will examine the new missions of counselling profession in the global context of the new millenium. Parallel with the global concern, I will focus my discussion in the area of empowerment. The context and meaning of empowerment, the ways it is expressed and practiced will also be examined. I will
  2. 2. first outline the global changes and the problem contexts in the new century. Some observations on the shifts or changes in values and mindsets that might be required to address these challenges and some relevant strategies developed from these values and mindsets will be presented. In the second half of my paper, I will examine how counselling could meet these new challenges with particular reference to the idea of empowerment. I will summarize these together with my views and visions for the future. The Global Issues in the 21 Century Eyllard (1998) asserted that we live in the global trend of globalization. With the technological development and economic advancement in for the past decades, the world is becoming more unified – globalized – in the way our lives are conducted and determined. We live in the country that is closely linked with the world. Issues, such as security, employment, education, political, economic, cultural social life and so on, could be resolved in its community or government in the past. These must now be conducted and determined with the consideration of the other parts of the world. Parallel with globalization, he also identified the trend of tribalization. On the basis of ethnic differences, large entities will break into smaller states. The breakup is not only marked by the independent movement. Mindell (1998) asserted that we all have tribalistic tendencies: a tendency to strongly attach to a group based on the ethnical and cultural backgrounds, in order to promote the collective goods of the group. The fields of becoming more unified and independence progress simultaneously. Together with the third agent of technology change, these agents are destabilizing and traumatizing the nation economies in most developed and developing countries. Unemployment rate, economic recession, education and qualities of life are some of the related alarming issues in Hong Kong, as in other developed and developing countries, as a result of transiting into the globalized world. It is not only in itself alarming. The increasing impotence of the community and government to resolve the social problems in its global context of globalization and local context of ethnical and cultural diversity creates strong senses of anxiety and insecurity. The general climate is that the future is not as promising as it has been promoted by politicians or government. People perceived that as threats more than opportunities and felt fears more than hopes. However, it is not only the problem of transition or adjustment. Theobaid (1997) stated clearly that our past economical successes are our burdens at present that have led to future failure. He elaborated that the economic prosperity during the past decades though allowed us to accumulate individual wealth, the overall qualities of life was declining. Eyllard (1998) also suggested that economic growth
  3. 3. is creating problems as much as it is solving them. It does not guarantee a promising future. He summarized five undesirable forms of growth from the report produced by the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) in 1996, which are occurring around the world. They are jobless growth, ruthless growth, voiceless growth, rootless growth and futureless growth. The jobless growth results from two factors. The first is the disappearing of employment opportunities in micro-economic and enterprise-level reform in order to increase competitively in global trade. The second is that new jobs are not creating fast enough to replace them. The ruthless growth refers to the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, in term of quality or quantity as a result of economic growth. The voiceless growth refers to the growth of economic that has not been accompanied by an extension of democracy. The rootless growth refers to the increasing risk of marginalization or elimination of cultural groups because of the control of economic resources or opportunities by the dominated cultural group. The futureless growth refers to the waste of resources that are needed by the future generations in order to achieve the economic growth for the present generation. These undesirable growths circle all over the world, in both the developing and developed countries, and are expressed in various ways now. Issues of unemployment, poverty, waste management, pollution, discrimination, terrorism and so on are the alarming problems that most countries are now facing. The social problems of increasing population of working poor, the increasing stress among them and their families, the increasing rate of youth unemployment and air pollution are some of the vital problems that people in Hong Kong has encountered. Besides the present expressions of these concrete problems, writers also suggested that there are potential problems for the new century parallel with economic growth. Theobaid (1997) argued that the major problem of economic growth is that it is not geared to the sustainable growth in the future. In thriving for economic growth we are not respect the natural limits, producing much more than we need and ignoring the negative consequences to the whole system. Besides the five undesirable forms of growth that we are now facing, he suggested that the ecological problems and its related health problems, the malfunction of the welfare net, the strong polarization of different ethnical and cultural groups could likely be the serious problems in the coming decade. It is not only the problem itself a problem, but also the ways we are now dealing with it is also a problem. Eyllard (1998) argued that the problems are mainly resolved with the problem-centred strategy. In both the private and public sectors, the predominant mode of problem solving strategy is targeted to remove undesirable elements from the future, but not add desirable elements to the future.
  4. 4. The task is to ameliorate present damage more than prepare and develop for the future. For public sector, the problem of this strategy is two-folded. Firstly, the nature of the social problem in concern is expanded, though the extent may be periodically lessened. Secondly, the allocation of budget or the actual spending is expanded with the nature of problem that administrative finical control or privatization will finally be regulated to tackle only the selected priority problem areas so as to lessen the government burdens. Problems related to managerialism or privatization become in concern. This is the case of Hong Kong, as well as in other countries, in handling welfare and health issues. The strategy is not only unable to repair the old, but also likely to create new problems. In short, in the coming century, people will experience three fields of antagonistic forces. Firstly, we experience both the fruit and devil of economic growth. Secondly, there is a strong climate for autonomous and increasing urge for interdependence. The third field is related to the technological advancement that simultaneously disseminates the two field forces above by constructing and propagating those messages and practices over the different parts of the world. The fields are expressed in themselves in various forms of problem. To summarize, the general problem areas people face in the new century includes the general feeling of fear and anxiety while transiting into the new millennium, the state of ambivalence for the paradoxical existences of the devil and the fruit of the economic growth, the potential problems that emerge with the unsustainable practices, and the present and future impacts of the inadequacy in handling recent problems. Possible Future: The Paradigm Shift, Ways and Strategies In response to the global changes, Eyllard (1998) suggests a paradigm shift is needed. He identified there is a paradigm shift from cowboy culture to spaceship culture, i.e. Planetism. The past century has been the century of independent. Different parts of the world and their people achieved the independence that parallel with the economic and technology growth in the past century. The value of individualism and independent was promoted under the capitalist system. The breakup of USSR and the cultural shifts in USA in the twentieth century were some of the examples. In the context of globalization, a new paradigm was emerging in the 1990. The Planetism culture, an interdependent culture, gradually formed with the advancement of information technology and increasing global trades. The Global network, information web, and trade agreements, treaties and laws at both global and national levels facilitated the emerging of Planetism all over the world. Values of communitarianism and interdependent are promoted. While facing with the social problems of the past century, people believed that democracy and sustainability
  5. 5. growth could be the key for the future. The values changes expressed in various forms: the urge for democracy in some eastern countries, the increasing awareness of ecological concern in both developing and developed countries, such as China, British and H.K., and the increasing numbers or tribes in various eastern and western countries, the evolution of third sectors in those small government countries, the strategic alliances in both national and enterprise levels all over the world. Eyllard (1998) believed that the changes of values and mindsets as above could empower us and enlighten our humanity for our future lives. However, in order to thrive in the future, Eyllard (1998) suggested that we should further develop a preferred future strategy towards changes. He argued that our usual “flight and flight” responses system has distracted us to see changes as threats and disempowered us to see any hope for the future. Its ways in dealing with social problems will consequently delay and accumulate problems in the future as I have argued above. The preferred future perspective, however, envisages us to have visions for the future. It empowers us by leads us with hope, inspiration and commitment to discover the future rather then repair the past. The mission-directed strategy is a way of the preferred future accord to Eyllard. The direction of this strategy is to “set out to create a positive future consisting of many new and desirable elements, as well as removing undesirable ones.” This is a strategy comes from inspiration, innovation and collaboration that in line with the communitarian and interdependent values. Unlike problem-directed strategy, which guided by “problem-shooting” philosophy and only provided limited options to solution; mission-directed strategy, which is guided by visions and values, opens up different pathways to the preferred future. For example, mission-directed strategy to health may involve nutrition, stress management, creating pollution-free environment and many other possible ways, instead of killing diseases only. Recent evolution of welfare sectors to third sectors could be a realization of mission-directed strategy . Eyllard (1998) believed that the mission-direction strategy could be the strategy of the leader for the future. He considered the empowerment of leaders with vision of preferred future is important in the new millenium. Parallel with the humanistic thought of Planetism, Eyllard (1998) argued that it is important for the leader to both have caring and compassion in human nature, as well as courage and commitment to create change. It also requires leader to “think global, act local”. Covey (1989) also thought that leaders are people of both independence and interdependence. He elaborated the ideas of interdependence to “being synergistic with others”. As
  6. 6. collaboration and Networking are keys to interdependent culture, Covey (1989) also develops a win-win strategy with focus on celebrating differences in collaboration and negotiation. Besides leadership, Eyllard (1998) also considered empowerment in the areas of learning and innovation. The empowerment nature of learning and innovation could be described in two interconnected elements. Firstly, it develops people to develop things for the new changes. Secondly, it develops people to initiates change for the future. Creating new changes require innovation that translates ideas and concepts to practices and products. It requires creativity and collaborative uses of knowledge. Learning in the Planetism stressed on creating future successes. It is a key to resolve current problems and meet future challenges. Thus learning has to be continuous and life-long, in context and experiential, just-in-time and updated, transformative and transcendental, learner-driven and customized for different learners. In the new century, we are not being taught, but actively learn. Learning happens during life, but not in the schools. The essential element for learning is not only the knowledge, but also the learning skills. Eyllard (1998) referred these as a new models and pedagogy of learning. Eyllard (1998) predicted the rapid development of “mindware”, knowledge technology and wisdom technology in the coming decades. In fact, recent trends in knowledge management reflected how this new learning culture is expressed now. The process of development, as to develop both things and peoples, requires these new mindsets and strategies in learning and innovation. In Planetism, a sustainable society is one of the preferred futures. We should also change the mindset to sustainability. We should respect and adapt to the natural limits, as well as caution about the unintended consequences to our planet because of our present actions. As a mission-directed strategy, it requires both the removal of the unsustainable practices and the creation of sustainable ones. Economically and ecologically, it is both essential for us to reduce exploitation and waste, and to promote equity and conserve resources. Generally speaking, we should be at all time caution about to ensure equitable sharing of resources among our generations and the future generations, as well as to ensure that other species are able to live in this planet and protecting the restoring capability of our environment. To realize the communitarian and independent culture in a civil society, Ellyard (1998) and Mindell (1993) suggested similar strategies. To summarize, they include the following. The first strategy concerns the promoting a caring culture with ourselves, our community and different cultures. The second is to expand our “circles of concern” to the whole world. The third concerns with enhancing our
  7. 7. minority awareness and reinvention of initiation of people with different backgrounds of us. The forth is focus on the preservation and transmission of different cultures. In a word, for the new millenium, we should shift our mindset to Planetism that promise sustainable future. In order to realize this, we should develop our mission-directed strategies in leadership, learning, innovation and sustainability practices in economical, ecological, social and cultural areas. Counselling Profession: The New Horizon Rooted in its historical and cultural background, McLeod (2000) summarized that “counselling plays a role in society of promoting an image of person as an intrinsically autonomous and separate being, and in supporting strategies for dealing with social problems experienced at individual level.” During these decades, empowerment was practiced, either implicitly or explicitly, by most of the counsellors in promoting autonomous individuals. In this traditional perspective of counselling, social problems were translated to issues of individual personality and upbringing. Although, there is a wide range of understandings in which empowerment was being defined and expressed, in traditional counselling approaches, such as in behavioural and Rogerian perspectives, it have been operated basically in individual dimension. In these perspectives, changes focused on facilitating the growth of independent people. Empowerment for the clients was considered in isolation from the border social context. Such practice is within the domain of problem-directed strategy. In response to the global changes, Mcleod (2000) thought that counselling has evolved and changed in different ways. Some argued that it is better to position counselling profession in empowerment people to engage constructively with the rapid changing world of the new century. It requires changes in values, mindsets and strategies as I mentioned above. In this part of my paper, I will examine how counselling profession has evolved to meet these challenges with the focus of empowerment practices. In response to the global changes and new problem contexts, new theoretical and practical concerns are emerging. Mcleod (2000), in examining the issue of power and politic in counselling, suggested that various ethnical, cultural, social and religious groups were marginalized in relation to counselling. He examined that how power differences between clients and counselling were constructed, implicitly and explicitly, in counselling through both the use of language and concepts in counselling and in the arrangements of counselling services. Instead of merely minimize the power differences; he suggested principles of anti-oppressive practice
  8. 8. as a way to the preferred future. As a mission-directed strategy, he suggested a re-examination of tradition theories in order to reduce oppressive practices and the focuses on empowerment and emancipation as goals of counselling. Empowerment is considered in the following perspective. It facilitates the client, as an expert of oneself, to make sense of his or her issues in social and historical context. Secondly, it transforms the problem issues in community context by working collaboratively with the client groups to initiate necessary social-political changes in the community. The practice reflects the shifts to embody humanistic and social concerns for the groups of homosexuality, women, and lower classes and so on, which have been formerly constructed as “disadvantage groups.” The development of social construction theories in counselling also reflects their future visions. Corey (1997) summarized their future visions “Living life means coping with problem, but not fusing with them… Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” It reflects both the compassion of present history and the hope for the future. The practices of the social construction approaches do not ignore the problems of the past. Instead, it replaces the client as an expert and works collaborative to co-author clients’ past stories towards the hopeful future. They referred empowerment as a process of building up collaboration and interdependent between counsellors and clients, facilitating the expressions of client stories in their social and cultural contexts, the re-authoring of hopeful stories for the future and the realization of these stories. White (1998) further summarized the narrative works with groups and in the communities, which indicates both the alternate stories and their realization in community are of equal importance. It is clear that counselling emerged itself in social context as participants of changes, but not only as supportive agents to social problems. Recent innovation of Adventure Therapy by Gass (1993) integrated learning into therapy indicates another possible way. Like experiential learning, the therapy focuses on placing clients, as learners. In the counselling process, “structural” wild activities are delivered in group context that usually require clients to have collaborative action and creative problem solving. It shifts the focuses to group achievement and transformative learning, from the traditional perspectives of individual adaptation and dysfunctional introspection. They considered empowerment as the active learning and experimentation of alternatives of the clients in the group process. They also considered that the use of small group development in the natural, literally both wild and real, environment provides the integrative whole for transformative and contextual learning. Unlike the traditional perspective, such as cognitive behaviours which focused learning on coping and
  9. 9. adaptation, recent development of adventure therapy sees learning with developmental perspective. Mcleod (2000) outlined the development of counselling as a vehicle for spiritual experience and communion in response to the global changes. The development of psychosynthesis, with its dual emphasis on personal integration and transpersonal transcendent, should be one of the ways. The focus on bodily experience and inner awareness provides a pivot for us to face the ever changing and antagonistic forces in the global environment. Psychosynthesis sees learning as a transcendent experience and a state of becoming. Psychosynthesis refers empowerment to the realization of will in both the direction and actions. Above paragraphs outlined how theories and practices is emerging with the global changes and trends. It should not be treated as the rejection of traditional approaches, the embodiment of the synthesis and hybridization of new and old is the central theme. In fact, with respect to cultural and social diversity, practitioners have placed much effort in integrating these new and old in multicultural context and with the localization of practices. Recent trend in localization of family therapy in Hong Kong would be an example. However, the practices of empowerment in different social and cultural backgrounds, such as the collective culture of China, require much examination and development. Besides theoretical and practical development, the professional development of counsellors is another crucial area. Mindell (1993) urged that counsellors should develop their minority awareness. McLeod (2000) argued that counsellors should develop their interdisciplinary perspective. It requires counsellors’ innovation to work collaboratively with other professions, such as social workers in community works and outdoor trainer in adventure based therapy, in the future. Whitemore (2000) asserted that counsellors are both the guides and the travellers. The central idea is that counsellors are not isolated from the global changes. In that global context, we are the guides of our clients that see themselves in difficulties, as well as travellers that sort out possible ways for our clients and ourselves. Empowerment happens in these two interdependent directions. Mindell (1993) further suggested the worldwork and deep democracy approaches, in order to expand our “circle of concern” to the whole world. It is not only the tasks for the counsellors to complete but also the visions that counsellors to envisage. In response to this, counsellors should be life-long learners, innovative, mission-directed and have visions for preferred future.
  10. 10. Regarding with the practices of empowerment, new forms of counselling organization are emerging with the central theme is “think global, act local.” Firstly, various counselling organizations transformed themselves from service providers to dual roles of advocators and service provides. With information and technological advancement, counselling organizations network themselves to advocate their ideas and contemporary efforts. The rapid development of social construction approaches in western and eastern countries during this decade is one of a good example. Such network reflects its communion characteristics, as it provides a strong energy for global advocacy and platform to collect indigenous practice wisdoms. Secondly, some counselling organizations successfully established themselves in enterprises that deliver mission-directed services. This is a milestone of the third sectors. They have their missions directed to the collective goods, social capital and gears towards sustainability growth. In USA, Project Adventure Inc., institute that promotes the adventure based therapy could be an example. Thirdly, with multicultural concerns, new innovations are noted. Some new counselling organizations, in Hong Kong and in USA, are setting up to develop services for men, groups of cross-cultural marriages and cross-country marriage. Other organizations in Hong Kong which develop services for women and families try out community work approaches and build up network with other professions, such as school teachers, social workers and recreational professionals. Fourthly, some counselling organizations try out different forms of knowledge management that encourage sharing of knowledge and wisdoms and facilitate innovations. This also marks the trend of building up learning culture in counselling organization. With the aids of information technology, the sharing of knowledge and wisdoms does not confined to organization level, but all over the world. The increasing among of learning and practice resources in the World Wide Web may indicate such trend. In short, the practices of empowerment in the new millennium should not focus only on the individual level. Contemporary practices expanded it in the global contexts. To realize this, new forms of counselling organizations are emerging. These all require a shift of mindset and value of counsellors. Conclusion In the new millennium, we should develop a Planetism vision to embody both the new and old. The vision of the Planetism is building up a communitarian society with sustainability growth. It aims at both resolving past problems and developing the future. To realize this, it requires a shift of mindset to mission-directed future perspective and new related strategies. Counselling
  11. 11. profession could not be isolated from the global trend. Rather, as a vehicle to achieve the Planetism vision, it should reinvent itself. In the new global contexts, the practices of empowerment are expressed differently in theoretical and organization domains. New forms of counselling organization and new innovations in counselling profession are emerging that realize the Planetism vision.
  12. 12. References: Corey, G (1997). Theory and Practice of Counselling and Psychotherapy. USA: Brooks / Cole Drucker, Peter F. et. al. (1998). Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management. USA: Harvard School Press. Ellyard, Peter (1998). Ideas for the New Millennium. Melbourne University Press. Ferrucci, Piero (1982). What We May Be. New York, Jeremy P. Tarche / Puthan. Gass, Michael ed. (1993). Adventure Therapy, Therapeutic Appications of Adventur Programming. USA: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co. Geldard, David (1993). Basic Personal Counselling. A Training Manual for Counsellors. Sydney, Prentice Hall. Ho, C. F. ed (2000). Civil Society and Third Sector. Peking: Social Sciences Documentation Pub. Kao, Charles H. C. and Lee, Joseph S. Ed (2000). The Road to Knowledge-Based Economy. Taiwan: Commonwealth Pub. McLeod, John (1998). An introduction to Counselling. Buckingham, Open University Press. Mindell, Arnold (1993). The Leader as Martial Artist. An introduction to Deep Democracy. Harper San Franciso. Stephen R.Covey (1989). The 7 Habits of highly effective people: restoring the character ethic. New York: Franklin Covey Co. Steven Friedman ed.(1993). The New Language of Change: Constructive Collaboration in Psychotherapy. London: The Guilford Press Theobald, A. Robert (1997). Reworking Success: New Communities at the Millennium. USA. New Society Pub. White, Cheryl and Denborough, David (1998). Introducing Narrative Therapy, A Collection of Practice-based Writings. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications Whitemore, Diana (2000). Psychosynthesis Counselling in Action. London. Sage. _____________________________________________________________________