Good Intentions OverRuled: A Critique of Empowerment in the Routine Organization of Mental Health Services

By Elizabeth Townsend

© 1998

Good Intentions OverRuled is about empowerment; so it is also about power. This book shows how power is exerted in the routine organizational processes that determine what can be done in everyday life, since modern societies are controlled by regulations, policies, professional practice, legislation, budgets, and other forms of organization.

Against the backdrop of an ideal vision of empowerment, this critique highlights both the Good Intentions of professionals and the organizational processes through which empowerment is OverRuled. Professionals who promote empowerment for those with little power, such as people with long-standing mental health problems, experience tension, a disjuncture between enabling participation in empowerment and engaging in caregiving processes that perpetuate dependence. Attempts to enable participation are undermined by processes of objectification, individualized accountability, hierarchical decision making, simulation-based education, risk management, and exclusion, which protect but also control people. The significance of this critique extends beyond mental health services because similar processes are used in the routine organization of power in education, employment insurance, transportation, and other sectors of society.

Good Intentions OverRuled sparks debate about empowerment by using a method called institutional ethnography, developed by the Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith. Mental health day programs are explored from the perspective of seven occupational therapists in Atlantic Canada. Described in this ethnography are the local, provincial, federal, and international processes used to organize power in Canada's mental health services. The aim is to inspire professional, lay, academic, and other persons (including those who use mental health services) to change the organization of power so that we promote rather than overrule empowerment.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.7in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP001768

  • PUBLISHED FEB 1998

    From: $23.21

    Regular Price: $30.95

    ISBN 9780802078025
  • PUBLISHED JAN 1998

    From: $39.75

    Regular Price: $53.00

Quick Overview

Townsend illustrates how attempts by occupational therapists to enable empowerment in everyday practice are thwarted by the institutional processes of admission, accountability, decision making, budgeting, risk management, and discharge.

Good Intentions OverRuled: A Critique of Empowerment in the Routine Organization of Mental Health Services

By Elizabeth Townsend

© 1998

Good Intentions OverRuled is about empowerment; so it is also about power. This book shows how power is exerted in the routine organizational processes that determine what can be done in everyday life, since modern societies are controlled by regulations, policies, professional practice, legislation, budgets, and other forms of organization.

Against the backdrop of an ideal vision of empowerment, this critique highlights both the Good Intentions of professionals and the organizational processes through which empowerment is OverRuled. Professionals who promote empowerment for those with little power, such as people with long-standing mental health problems, experience tension, a disjuncture between enabling participation in empowerment and engaging in caregiving processes that perpetuate dependence. Attempts to enable participation are undermined by processes of objectification, individualized accountability, hierarchical decision making, simulation-based education, risk management, and exclusion, which protect but also control people. The significance of this critique extends beyond mental health services because similar processes are used in the routine organization of power in education, employment insurance, transportation, and other sectors of society.

Good Intentions OverRuled sparks debate about empowerment by using a method called institutional ethnography, developed by the Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith. Mental health day programs are explored from the perspective of seven occupational therapists in Atlantic Canada. Described in this ethnography are the local, provincial, federal, and international processes used to organize power in Canada's mental health services. The aim is to inspire professional, lay, academic, and other persons (including those who use mental health services) to change the organization of power so that we promote rather than overrule empowerment.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.7in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    'Good Intentions OverRuled is a very important contribution to the analysis of the work of collaborative education and client empowerment in the human services. It will serve as a standard in its field as both an account of the state of the art of mental health services and as a guide for the many professionals who are searching for practical avenues in the struggle for human service delivery - delivery that preserves and enhances the dignity of the individual. It is a carefully crafted ethnographic account that draws upon a practitioner's insights into work organization and a visionary's efforts to locate strategic sites in which to work for social change.'


    Marilee Reimer, Department of Sociology, St. Thomas University
  • Author Information

    Elizabeth Townsend is an associate professor in the School of Occupational Therapy, Dalhousie University.