Element 2: Empowerment

Element 2: Empowerment

girl reading book

A critical goal of ECMHC is to help the adults in children’s lives to nurture and support the child’s social and emotional well-being. The consultant typically takes the role as facilitator and coach rather than the expert that solves the problems at hand, empowering the family to take action. This approach leads to sustainable change in the lives of children. Supporting this sense of empowerment is a key element of partnerships with families. How do consultants help to build the capacity of families within the consultation experience? Several important practices can be helpful in empowering families based on a strength-based framework.


Being strength-based refers to practices that a consultant uses that recognize and use strengths of children, families, and communities. Strengths-based practice involves a shift from a deficit approach, which emphasizes problems, to a positive partnership with the family. Within early childhood mental health consultation, the approach acknowledges each child and family’s unique set of strengths and challenges, and engages the family as a partner in developing and implementing all steps of consultation from intake to completion.

A review of the literature suggests at least three pathways by which strengths-based practices benefit children and families (Green, McAllister, & Tarte, 2004):

  1. by influencing the extent of families’ engagement in program services
  2. by increasing family efficacy and empowerment
  3. by enhancing families’ relationship building capacity and social support networks

Using a strength-based framework in your early childhood mental health consultation work with families may be a shift from a more deficit based model. With commitment and practice this approach can become part of your consultation framework and can strengthen partnerships.

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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.