This article aims to clarify the meaning of the much-used term ‘empowerment’ in order to contribute to a more theoretically coherent development of policy and practice aimed at facilitating the empowerment of health and social care service users. The liberational and consumerist models of empowerment are highlighted, with the former having a broader emphasis on people's roles within society than the latter. The concept of ‘empowerment as professional practice’ is also critically explored, with the conclusion that professionals can work with people in empowering ways if they recognise and work to address the structural causes of oppression.
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