For some, individuals spend time in therapy expressing the feeling of having no control over their life. When this pattern emerges, I see my role in the therapeutic process as exploring how the client identifies and would like to experience their renowned sense of empowerment. Empowerment is often presented in therapy with an emphasis on the clients’ beliefs about themselves. This concept takes on different forms depending on the individual; there are various settings in which empowerment may take place as it contributes to change in the quality of people’s lives and the society in which they live.
Empowerment theory has been described by Marc A. Zimmerman as the process of changing beliefs and attitudes within the self or among others, which subsequently leads to social change. Empowerment can give rise to individuals to address inequalities experienced in their lives, or be generated across communities to help larger groups gain control over particular situations. Through the lens of social justice, this involves giving people the right to act upon their own decisions and choices. Oppressed groups and marginalized populations are in our own community, our workplace and even residing in our own homes. They are our children, siblings, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and partners. No one is immune from injury, disease, mental illness, or unprecedented changes.
In therapy, conditions may be created to facilitate the development of empowerment. This by in large is what my colleague Diana Nesko, LGMFT and myself are striving to offer in our upcoming virtual women’s empowerment group. Many of the female clients we work with balance a number of roles professionally and interpersonally, some of which are everchanging (i.e. workforce, parenthood). It’s undeniable that past and present societal norms have had an influence on what many women relate to as self-doubt.
One of the common ways to work towards developing self-efficacy is to start off by identifying self-limiting beliefs that may be serving as a barrier towards self-empowerment. What are the thoughts holding you back from taking action? Are there particular situations or scenarios that make you feel anxious or fearful? This can sound like, “I was lucky to get this job.” Or “I can’t speak in public settings.” These prompts can help identify a self-limiting belief by increasing awareness and monitoring emotional reactions.
Second, challenging the self-limiting belief. Once identified – whether it be in the form of self-doubt, the comparison of others, or minimizing an effort or achievement – we begin to challenge these beliefs by searching for evidence that contradicts the dialogue we have with ourselves. For example, match your skillset to the job responsibilities and note your achievements in the role. Or list examples of when you have spoken successfully in public settings.
Lastly, changing the narrative. This is done by replacing the self-limiting belief with a rational, reasonable and optimistic statement. This may sound like, “I am qualified for this role and will learn whatever else I need to know on-the-job.” Or “I have spoken successfully in public before. Many people find public speaking difficult. With practice, I will develop greater confidence.”
As the journey continues toward fulfillment, validation, and an authentic sense of empowerment, if you or someone you know is interested in joining our interactive 8-week therapy group please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be incorporating psychoeducation and promote resilience building among group members who are working to make changes in their lives to accomplish their full potential. With the emphasis of empowerment, we can achieve gained respect, strong relationships with others, and the sense of connection to a larger community. This group is open to women whose age ranges between 25 and 55 years old and reside in California, Maryland and Virginia. We ask that folks interested make a commitment to attend weekly beginning Sunday, February 28 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm ET.
Lindsay Enright, MS, LCMFT provides individual, couple, and family therapy in both the Bethesda and Sterling offices, and virtually to clients located in both Maryland and Virginia. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Lindsay!